ACNIS Takes on the Challenges of Armenian Culture and Values

Armenian Center for National and International Studies
75 Yerznkian Street
Yerevan 375033, Armenia
Tel: (+374 – 1) 52.87.80 or 27.48.18
Fax: (+374 – 1) 52.48.46
E-mail: [email protected] or [email protected]

July 29, 2004

ACNIS Takes on the Challenges of Armenian Culture and Values

Yerevan–The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS)
convened today a roundtable discussion on “The Challenges of Culture and
Value System in Armenia.” As part of the forum, the Center released the
results of its specialized opinion survey, entitled “Value and Ideology
Benchmarks: Imperatives and Alternatives,” which involved more than 50
experts from Yerevan and across Armenia.
ACNIS director of administration Karapet Kalenchian greeted the invited
guests and public participants with opening remarks. “These deliberations on
culture, together with the expert survey preceding them, aim to present one
focus group’s professional perceptions of ideology guideposts which are
characteristic of a transitional period, as well as the true role and place
of our system of values and patterns of cultural development,” he said.
ACNIS legal and political affairs analyst Stepan Safarian focused in detail
on the findings of the expert opinion polls. Accordingly, the majority of
the surveyed experts assert that Armenian society today does not have
clearly-defined value-based guidelines. 4% of experts find it difficult to
answer this question, and only 6% give a positive answer. According to 20%
of respondents, the system of values operating in everyday life is the
continuation by inertia of the system formed during the Soviet years, 10%
think it comes to us from the depth of centuries, and 50% are convinced that
it has been formed during the years of independence. The experts are of the
opinion that Armenian society often favors personal values and their
manifestations, with egocentrism (90%) prevailing over altruism. Regarding
group interests, 96% are of the opinion that society favors clan interests
over collectivism. On the level of national values, 44% and 48%,
respectively, choose nationalism and patriotism, and 80% and 72% cite the
human values of cosmopolitanism and humanitarianism, respectively.
48% of respondent specialists think that the benchmarks of societal values
should be defined by liberal democracy, 18% social democracy, and 18%
national democracy. 6% of participants point to the supremacy of group
interests as the primary obstacle to deepening of the democratic system of
values adopted by the Armenian public, while 20% blame the society’s
unsatisfactory level of political consciousness, 4% its low educational
level, 2% the lack of propagation of relevant values, and 2% the
counter-propagation of those values. 54%, 6%, and 2% find inappropriate the
attitude of the authorities, opposition, and political forces supporting the
authorities, respectively, toward those values. Taking into account today’s
imperatives, 26% underscore the importance of a sovereign state, 14% human
rights and freedoms, 14% spirituality, 14% constitutional order, 10%
democracy, 10% patriotism, 6% separation of powers, and 4% equal rights.
According to the experts, the average Armenian’s conduct of late has changed
markedly toward types of negative demeanor. Only 6% assess lawfulness to be
a positive feature of the average Armenian’s conduct, 94% as negative.
Lawlessness in the average Armenian’s behavior is marked as negative by 100%
of experts, fairness as positive by 38% and negative by 62%, unfairness as
positive by 26% and negative by 74%, honesty and dishonesty are considered
positive by 30% and 84% and negative by 70% and 16%, kindness and evil as
positive by 46% and 70% and negative by 54% and 30%, initiative and
passiveness as positive by 46% and 62% and negative by 54% and 38%, devotion
and treachery as positive by 36% and 66% and negative by 64% and 34%,
civility and rudeness as positive by 20% and 76% and negative by 80% and
24%. Diligence is marked as positive by 76% and negative by 24%.
It is noteworthy that the experts surveyed are convinced that young people
are inclined toward democracy, the middle generation toward
authoritarianism, and the senior generation toward totalitarianism. In the
event of maintaining the current value benchmarks and system, Armenia will
proceed to authoritarianism according to 66% of respondents, to
totalitarianism accordingly to 12%, to democracy according to 16%. 38% opine
that Armenia will establish a system of values characteristic of a
democratic society in 25 years, 6% in 50 years, and 4% in 100 years, whereas
8% do not believe that Armenia will ever have such a system of values. 40%
have a more optimistic attitude toward this issue. They think it will take
five to ten years. The specialists maintain that from the perspective of
civilizational values Armenian society is closest to Eastern civilization
(10%), Russian civilization (10%), and European civilization (12%), while
44% hold that Armenian civilization is a synthesis of all.
What is the role of the spiritual world in our life today? 74% of experts
conclude that this role is a small one, 24% think it plays no role, and only
2% say it leads a great role. 14% of respondents point to the
super-materialized character of contemporary life as the main reason for the
relatively small role of the spiritual world, 20% to the low quality of
spiritual sustenance, 6% to the lack of propagation of spiritual values, 6%
to the passiveness of the intelligentsia, and 20% and 6% to the absence of
exemplary behavior by the authorities and the political elite, respectively.
66% of the respondents are male, and 34% female; 26% are 21-30 years of age,
40% 31-40, 24% 41-50, 10% 51 or above. All the experts surveyed have
received higher education, 14% are full professors (PhD), 82% hold a Master’
s degree, and 4% have earned a Bachelor’s degree.

The second item on the day’s agenda was a presentation by Yerevan State
University professor Vardan Khachatrian, who addressed “The Old and the New:
Tradition and Progress.” “The unique aspect of Armenian identity is the
cultural stratum that has come to us from ancient times and promoted the
Armenian people’s survival,” he said, emphasizing the role of the church,
which has recently diminished. “The guiding precept of the spiritual elite
today is not the struggle for spiritual progress but the ability to adapt to
the present regime,” Khachatrian concluded, noting that the latter is unable
to foster society’s spiritual development since it pursues a policy of
devastating symbols of national pride instead of paying tribute to them.
The formal presentations were followed by contributions by Anahit Bayandur
of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly; former minister of state Hrach Hakobian;
law professor Hrair Tovmasian; Mushegh Yekmalian of the OSCE Yerevan Office;
Derenik Demirchian High School principal Anahit Bakhshian; Alexander Butaev
of the National Democratic Union; MP Shavarsh Kocharian of the National
Democratic Party; Yerevan State University professor Aram Harutiunian;
Vahagn Khachatrian of the “Armat” center; Ruzanna Khachaturian of the People
‘s Party of Armenia; Artsrun Pepanian, political analyst for AR television;
Gayane Markosian of the Harmonious World NGO; National Press Club
chairperson Narine Mkrtchian; and several others.
ACNIS economic and diaspora affairs analyst Hovsep Khurshudian made summary
remarks. “We may deduce from many of the answers that the reestablishment of
values and traditions highly depends on the political system, and
particularly morality of the ruling elite. Therefore only fundamental,
system changes will lead to positive results,” he concluded.
Founded in 1994 by Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs Raffi K.
Hovannisian and supported by a global network of contributors, ACNIS serves
as a link between innovative scholarship and the public policy challenges
facing Armenia and the Armenian people in the post-Soviet world. It also
aspires to be a catalyst for creative, strategic thinking and a wider
understanding of the new global environment. In 2004, the Center focuses
primarily on public outreach, civic education, and applied research on
critical domestic and foreign policy issues for the state and the nation.

For further information on the Center or the full graphics of the poll
results, call (3741) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (3741) 52-48-46; e-mail
[email protected] or [email protected]; or visit or

From: Baghdasarian