Collaboration with European and international agencies, programmes and initiatives have recently become more intensive. Armenia actively participates, or at least is represented, in many pan-European initiatives and programmes, meetings and congresses, exhibitions and competitions. Provision of active representation of Armenian culture, cultural achievements or agents of cultural spheres is becoming a necessary part of Armenian cultural policy trends.
EU cooperation is conducted on the basis of partnership and cooperation agreements between the EU and the Republic of Armenia that were signed in 1996 and entered into force in 1999. Since June 2004, Armenia, along with Azerbaijan and Georgia, has been participating in the European Neighbourhood Policy, which is an important step for the region towards European integration. Cultural cooperation and promotion of the Armenian cultural heritage are priorities of the cultural policy in the EU-Armenia joint actions programme. Armenia is involved in the Eastern Partnership Culture Programme that was launched in 2010 and aims to strengthen regional cultural links and dialogue between the EU and Eastern countries. In this framework, the Ministry of Culture has implemented a number of programmes; in particular, in 1999, Armenia joined the European Heritage Days programme initiated by the CoE and the European Commission, in 2006 within the framework of the European Commission’s “Culture 2000” programme, a programme on the restoration of musical instruments was implemented jointly with the French Culture and Cooperation Association and the Ministry of Culture.
Since 2013, Armenia is participating in the European Commission’s “Twinning Instrument” programme, which operates in the countries of European Neighbourhood Policy, giving opportunities to develop administrative skills and to ensure the efficiency of state management.
Armenia continues to participate in different pan-European jointly funded programmes such as Days of European Heritage, Museum Night, Music festivals, Francophonie programmes, etc). A couple of new initiatives were added in 2010: Puppet Nomad Academy project, Transkaukazja 2011, and the “Armeniaca” project which aims to count and list Armenian cultural heritage based in other European countries. Special attention is paid to the individual professional development of actors (Artist in Residence programme).
The Ministry of Culture actively cooperates with UNESCO. In this framework, the Ministry of Culture regularly submits nominations for inclusion in the UNECSO calendar of prominent people and historical events.
In the framework of the Convention on Non-Material Cultural Heritage Preservation, the Ministry of Culture organised annual symposia entitled: “Knowledge and Symbol, Belief and Customs” (2005) and “Dialogues of Cultures” (2006).
One of the trends of Armenia and UNESCO cooperation is having the most important Armenian cultural values and achievements integrated into the world cultural heritage.
The list of World Material Cultural Heritage currently includes three Armenian monuments of material (tangible) heritage such as: 1) Temple complexes of Haghpat and Sanahin (as one monument); 2) Cathedral of Etchmiadzin, the churches Hripsimeh, Gayane, Shoghakat and the ruins of the temple of Zvartnots; 3) Gegard monastery and the upper valley of Azat river.
Since 2005, pieces of intangible heritage started to be included on the UNESCO list. In 2005, the music of the Armenian duduk was declared a masterpiece on the UNESCO list of “Humanity’s Oral and Non-Material Heritage”. In 2009, in the framework of a programme on “Masterpieces of Humanity’s Intangible Heritage” a website devoted to the duduk (a traditional woodwind instrument of Armenian origin) was launched. In 2010, another outstanding cultural and religious identity symbol of Armenia, the khachkar (“cross-stone”, the medieval religious and cultural monument) was incorporated in the list of World Cultural Heritage as “The Armenian cross-stones art. Symbolism and craftsmanship of Khachkars“. Following this event, an exhibition of the Armenian khachkars was organised at the UNESCO headquarters. In 2011, three more cultural phenomena were submitted for inclusion on the World Cultural Heritage List: the traditional festival of Vardavar, romances of “ashughs” (Armenian bards), and the Armenian epos “The daredevils of Sasoun”. The latter was included on the UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2012. In 2014, the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage was enriched with one more Armenian cultural value, namely the Armenian traditional bread “lavash”, its preparation, cultural meaning and appearance.
Another initiative that was submitted to UNESCO is a list of anniversary dates of famous people of Armenian origin or linked to Armenia and Armenian culture, to be incorporated into the official list of UNESCO.
As a result of close cooperation with UNESCO structures, Yerevan was announced World Book Capital 2012.
The cooperation with UNESCO in the cultural heritage sphere is also focused on improvement of preservation and management processes through training of specialists. Thus, in 2009, training of museum specialists was organised and conducted.
Within the framework of UNESCO intiatives, a conference entitled “Cultural policies. Policies for Culture. New ways for cultural policy”, held in Yerevan on 5 November 2009. The conference addressed important issues that might affect the ways in which participating countries develop their cultural policies. The conference resulted in developing resolutions and methodologies.
Council of Europe
Cultural cooperation with the Council of Europe is one of the main directions of Armenian cultural relations. Prior to joining the CoE, Armenia participated in its cultural programmes such as “Stage” (up to 2005), which was aimed at establishing cooperation and exchange mechanisms between the Southern Caucasus countries and to assist them in implementing their own cultural policies.
The National Report on Armenia’s State Cultural Policy was elaborated in the framework of the above programme, which, however, because of controversies in the historical part of Armenia, was not published in the framework of the CoE.
Since September 2005, the Ministry of Culture has been participating in the Kiev Initiative Programme initiated by the European Council for 2006-09 and implemented with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The Initiative is aimed at the development of cultural policies and strategies for the benefit of strengthening democracy, intercultural dialogue and cultural diversity in the region. As the practical result of the Kiev Initiative Programme and the Slovenian meeting of ministers of culture, Armenia has resumed its participation in the programme of “Rehabilitation of the cultural heritage of historical cities”. The recent activities of the programme included exchange of experts’ visits, seminars and development of a “Report on the cultural heritage”.
INCP (International Network of Cultural Policy)
Since the establishment of INCP (1998), Armenia has been a full member of the network and has been participating at the ministerial level. This cooperation gives the opportunity to study and exchange views on cultural policy issues together with the culture ministers of other countries. One example of this co-operation is the recent action directed at the ratification and implementation of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Encouragement of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, as well as intercultural dialogue.
BSEC (Black Sea Economic Cooperation)
Armenia actively participates at the sessions of the BSEC organisation’s working group on cultural issues. In the framework of BSEC, Armenia attaches particular importance to cooperation on the implementation of programmes in the field of monument preservation jointly with other countries, as well as conducting intercultural dialogue with the countries of the region. In 2008, a cultural programme consisting of two exhibitions (“Cultural mosaic” and “Sunny sky to the Black sea”) was implemented in Armenia.
CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States)
Cultural contacts with CIS countries are inescapable because of similarities of cultural systems, mentalities and values of countries that have lived together in the same cultural and political space for more than 70 years. The significant part of world cultural production (films, music recordings, books, fashion, new cultural and scientific tendencies and theories, etc) still reaches Armenia through Russia and Russian-speaking segments of CIS countries. The flows of cultural production and information are mainly covered by the private sector or individual contacts and initiatives. However, official cultural contacts and institutional collaboration do not reflect real volumes of cultural exchange and the impact among countries of CIS, though they are becoming more active and more organised.
The Ministry of Culture participates in the CIS Cultural Cooperation Council, as well as in the Intergovernmental Foundation for Educational, Scientific and Cultural Cooperation(IFESCCO). With the support of the latter in October 2007, the symposium of CIS and Baltic countries’ publishers on “Translation as a Cultural Interaction Attraction Field”was held in Armenia. The Ministry of Culture participated in a number of projects and activity programmes of the Cultural Cooperation Council, for example,the”Kupola Sodrujestva” programme, the programme on “The main activities in the culture field of the CIS member states till 2010” etc. Activities are being carried out as part of the Interstate Council for Book-Publishing, Book-Distribution and Periodicals and the Expert Group for the Inter-library Exchange System. Within the framework of cooperation with CIS member states, Armenia signed a number of agreements including the Model Lawon Culture and Agreements on Cooperation of State Members of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Book-Publishing, Book-Distribution and Polygraphy. Work has been carried out on a number of draft agreements and projects (“On Joint Film Production”, “On Creating Favourable Conditions for Mutual Exchange of Printed Products”, “Interregional and cross-border cooperation” agenda and etc.).
Collaboration between the CIS countries envisages promotion of cultural exchange and promotion of national cultures in participating countries. Annual International forums of translators and publishers held in Yerevan have actively supported various activities aimed at the development of policies and cooperation programmes between CIS and Baltic countries in the spheres of translation and publishing. As a result of the forums’ activities, a virtual cooperation platform, the official site of the translators and publishers of SIC and Baltic countries has been created (http://bookplatform.org/en/about.html).
In a context of political and cultural relationships between Armenia and the Russian Federation, special attention is drawn to preservation and promotion of the Russian language in Armenia through increased capacities for learning Russian, competitions, performances, etc. Armenia has also participated in events aimed at promotion of the Russian language in the CIS (e.g. International Festival of Russian Language Radio).
In April 2008 a memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Armenia, Yerevan Municipality and Armenian representation of the British Council was signed. The memorandum provides the implementation of activities aimed at the development and improvement of library and information system of Armenia. Ongoing projects in the framework of the memorandum will contribute to the replenishment of library resources, as well as the advanced training of library staff. The British Council’s initiatives are also aimed to bring to Armenia innovative art works through festivals, performances and exhibitions, in addition to a range of projects, programmes, workshops and seminars. Yearly festivals of British films, many exhibitions and other events have been held in Armenia so far. The British Council collaborates with local partners, both institutional and public. A series of seminars, entitled Dialogues of Cultures, Literary Bridges, and Dialogues of Civilisations, took place in Yerevan on the initiative of the IRI Culture House.
The Open Society Institute
Since the beginning of its activities in 1997, the Armenian branch of the OSI Assistance Foundation has provideed strong support to the initiatives in the field of art and culture, using the capabilities of the Art and Culture networking program. In Armenia the program operates in two directions: firstly, it provides vocational training in the field of art; secondly, it supports the formation of a socio-cultural environment and development of potential cultural trends. The program supports the organisation of cultural events, festivals, performances, panel discussions, lectures, discussions and other such cultural activities that will involve the wider society. In particular, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Armenia received various grants from OSI for a number of cultural events such as the “Golden Apricot” International Film Festival, the “Nazar” International Theatre Festival, the “Tumanyan Fairy Tale Day” International Theatre Festival, the International Youth Film Festival, and the International Festival “Woman”.