Intercultural dialogue is one of the priorities of Armenia’s state cultural policy. According to the Armenian cultural strategy, all types of culture and art are considered as elements of intercultural dialogue. For the purpose of developing and strengthening intercultural dialogue in recent years, the Republic of Armenia has joined a number of major international instruments.
Within the framework of principles and norms of international law, Armenia promotes: the preservation of Armenian historical and cultural values that are in other states and the preservation of historical and national values of other nations that are on the territory of Armenia; the development of educational and cultural life; as well as the implementation of articles of the Law on Preservation and Use of Immobile Monuments of History and Culture and of the Historical Environment, according to which “political, ideological, religious, race and national discrimination is prohibited”.
The Republic of Armenian conducts active cultural dialogue with those countries that have elements of Christian and Islamic culture in its own territory, as well as protecting them at state level. According to Article 5 of the European Cultural Convention (provision on the preservation and availability of cultural values that are on the territories of different countries and that are a part of the European cultural heritage), the Republic of Armenia has proposed more than once to discuss the opening of a cultural corridor, on the one part, in the direction of Ani (in Turkey, including the Armenian historical-cultural monuments and historical places that are of Armenian interest – numerous ancient and medieval structures, Urartian fortresses and tombs, medieval Armenian churches, sites of ancient and medieval Armenian citiesand palaces and temporal structures). On the other hand, the cultural corridor could be extended in the direction of the Islamic historical-cultural values that may interest the Turkish people, particularly, the Muslim mosques and mausoleums, but also other medieval monuments like caravanserais, bridges, and bath-houses that can be found in different regions of Republic of Armenia and Artsakh (NKR).
A vivid example of intercultural dialogue at the regional level is the Caucasian Chamber Orchestra, including the best musicians from Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia (http://www.caucasianco.com/).
Armenia has different levels of cross-border cultural cooperation with neighbouring countries. The highest level of cooperation is with Georgia and Iran. There is a Cultural Centre of the Islamic Republic of Iran functioning in Armenia and promoting Iranian culture. Georgian and Iranian artists are constant participants of most international cultural events in Armenia (festivals, master-classes, concerts, exhibitions, etc). Days of Iranian Culture in Armenia were organised in 2005 and 2009. Days of Armenian Culture were hosted in Iran in September 2011. In 2009, Days of Georgian Culture were held in Armenia, and in 2010 Georgia responded with Days of Armenian Culture in Georgia. Besides, the Ministry of Culture supports cultural initiatives of the Armenian Diaspora in Georgia.
The most difficult cultural relations are with Azerbaijan and Turkey. The absence of official relationships excludes official cultural contacts or development of strategies of cultural cooperation. The Azerbaijan government officially prevents any intercultural contacts with Armenia at all levels because of existing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict (the official position of RA regarding the conflict can be seen at Nagorno-Karabakh page of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of RA, http://mfa.gov.az/en/content/812).
However, contacts on an individual or organisational level happen from time to time. Peace-making organisations (mostly international and very few local ones) are interested in establishing a sort of intercultural dialogue in peace-making goals; however separate efforts are not successful. Thus, in 2011 and 2012 festivals of Azeri films planned by the Centre for Peace-making Initiatives were cancelled because public sentiment in the Armenian society is not currently prepared for such activities, due to the apparent unilateralism of recent peace-making initiatives, the absence of mirror activities and the intimidating rhetoric of some Azeri representatives.
Armenian-Turkish cultural contacts are somewhat more successful than those with Azerbaijan. Turkish artists participate in some festivals in Armenia (“Golden Apricot”). There are a couple of Armenian-Turkish cultural projects being implemented, mostly aimed at reaching mutual understanding regarding the tragic events of what is seen in Armenia as the “Genocide of 1915”, when 1.5 millions of Armenians lost their lives in Turkey (http://www.genocide-museum.am/eng/armenian_genocide.php). Nevertheless, the Armenian-Turkish dialogue-related initiatives are not very welcome by both the Armenian and Turkish societies because of the current political situation.
Though there is no diplomatic relationship between Turkey and Armenia, some constructive ideas on collaboration in the area of restoration or the study of cultural heritage were announced during 2010 and 2011. Nonetheless, their implementation still seems to be difficult.
In the sphere of Armenian-Turkish relations, the non-governmental sector develops and implements some programmes aimed at building relationships, mostly with the support of international donors. A number of initiatives have been implemented during 2010 and 2011, such as the programme of Support to Armenia-Turkey Rapprochement, funded by USAID and implemented by the Eurasia Partnership Foundation – Armenia. The cultural component is one of the most important in this particular initiative. Thus, so far it includes policy and media dialogue, training for media specialists, and dialogue between Armenian-Turkish animators within the framework of the “Re-Animania” cartoon-makers’ festival in Armenia (2011).
Intercultural dialogue: actors, strategies, programmes
The government pays attention and takes appropriate measures in the local communities and regions to support cultural variety, intercultural dialogue and the issues of social unity. This support is confirmed by the Law on the State Budget. According to this Law, special lines of the State Budget are envisaged to support activities of national minorities at the community and NGO levels.