Ministry of Culture attempts to address transparency issues, but still some way to go.
4.3 Other relevant issues and debates
4.3.1 Religion and Church as cultural policy development factors
Religion is one of the most important factors of cultural specificity and cultural development of nations and countries. Armenia is a secular country which means the religious institutions de-jure does not intervene in the state policy development process, but a de-facto religious factor definitely impacts on the decision-making process in some spheres, such as cultural heritage, education, and cultural tourism. The Armenian Apostolic Church is a dominant religious institution in Armenia, and about 94.7% of citizens belong to it. Its role and functions are much more than those of just a religious institution. The Armenian Apostolic Church implemented functions identical to those of a state since the last Armenian state collapsed in 14 c. So far, it has been playing a central role in the organisation, management and protection of the Armenian Communities of Diaspora. For the vast number of Armenians, the Armenian Apostolic Church is a symbol of national and ethnic identity rather than that of a religion.
Since the declaration of independence in 1991, the Armenian Apostolic Church has significantly enlarged the scope of its activities in many spheres of culture.
Some sports may be considered as a factor strongly impacting culture and development. Unprecedented success of the Armenian chess-players in the World Chess Olympiads 2006, 2008, and 2012 promoted national interest in chess and stimulated the introduction of chess into secondary schools as a part of the national education programme (2011). Chess has also become an additional means for international recognition of Armenia, the Armenian people and culture.
Transparency of Culture related State Institutions
Criticism of the activities of the Ministry of Culture that periodically appear in the mass media sometimes stem from the lack of transparency of ministerial activities, appropriate information on cultural projects, awareness about decision-making and selection processes, etc. Public debates on this issue often do not get immediate and adequate feedback from government officials, so people do not feel their opinion is valued by the state.
During 2011, there have been several positive changes in the situation. The Minister of Culture tried to be more open to the public and obtain feedback on some important issues that were emerging (the issue of restoration and displacement of frescos of Minas Avetissyan, the famous Armenian painter, the gradual removal of book stores, etc.) through various mass media outlets. A meeting with the Armenian blogging community was organised in August 2011, where all these and other issues were discussed and at least addressed. The official website of the Ministry (http://www.mincult.am) also plays an important role in the provision of public awareness, but the question of transparency still remains open.