Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Publishes new Programming Plan

Armenian Communities Department – Service des Communautés Arméniennes
Av. de Berna, 45 A, PT-1067-001, Lisboa, Portugal
Tel: +351 21 782 3658
E-mail: [email protected]

Oscar O’Sullivan
Gestor de Projetos Junior
Serviço das Comunidades Arménias

Publication of a New Five-Year Programming Plan
for the Armenian Communities Department of the
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation

The new Programming Plan of the Armenian Communities Department (ACD)
of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation lays out the key components of
its funding priorities and activities for the next five years
(2014-2018). Launching in December 2013, it is based on the
Department’s mission “to create a viable future for the Armenian
people in which its culture and language are preserved and valued.”
The Plan is structured around the four priority areas which are
crucial in fulfilling that mission: promoting the preservation of
Armenian language and culture through education, supporting Armenia by
investing in its youth and civil society, helping to improve
Armenian-Turkish relations and preserving Armenian literary heritage.
A consultative process was undertaken that affirmed these needs. The
most important issue arising is the rapid loss of the language
Calouste Gulbenkian spoke: Western Armenian. For this reason much of
the funding will go towards safeguarding and developing the language
and culture, particularly in the diaspora. A strategic approach is
being adopted as the Department begins to provide larger sums to fewer
initiatives, so that greater impact is assured.
What follows is a presentation of the programmes, grouped around four
priority areas. In addition to these, two further initiatives will be
introduced: turning the Department into a hub of connections and
strategic thinking for the Armenian world, and humanitarian support in
unforeseen circumstances (e.g. the Armenian community in
Syria). Programmes will be implemented throughout the world by trusted

1. Preservation of the Armenian language and culture, and the
development of the diaspora by linking its different parts and
investing in education

i) Loss of the Western Armenian Language
Western Armenian is an “Endangered Language” according to UNESCO,
under the threat of disappearing if serious initiatives are not
undertaken to reinforce it. This generation is probably the last
generation that can halt or possibly reverse this process of
not-so-gradual loss of a language that was a vibrant source of
Armenian culture only half a century ago. The ACD will focus on the
following four areas to reinforce and develop the language:

A. Support to Armenian Schools and Other Educational Initiatives in
the Diaspora
Armenian schools will continue to receive funding. There will be a
focus on less developed countries where the Armenian community faces
significant material limitations, and where there also is a critical
mass of Armenian speakers (or the potential of having such a critical
mass). Where there is demographic growth in a community, support for
the set-up of new schools or the strengthening of existing ones will
be considered.
Student-related initiatives that preserve the language will also be
financed. Innovative youth initiatives that encourage Armenians in the
diaspora to speak the language and to produce culture in it will be
backed, particularly in Western countries. Emphasis will be put on
extra-curricular activities related to culture and initiatives that
are led by young people speaking to their interests as defined by them
rather than defined by traditional community leaders.

B. Support the Creation of a Teacher Training Centre for Western
Armenian The Department aims to foster an intellectual community that
can teach the language in schools, edit the newspapers and websites of
tomorrow, produce culture and manage community affairs in Armenian. To
this end, it will provide a significant grant over the next two years
to establish somewhere in the diaspora an Armenian Teacher Training
Centre or Programme. It will also support the establishment of an
International Western Armenian Teachers Association.

C. Academic Centres and University-Based Initiatives that Teach
Western Armenian and Culture, Research the Use of Western Armenian or
Contribute to Armenian Studies Support will be available for academic
centres and initiatives where Western Armenian is taught to students
who specialise in Armenian studies or are learning the language for
personal reasons, as well as innovative projects on the use and
reinforcement of Western Armenian. Additionally, some support will be
given to conferences and lectures focused on Armenian studies.

D. Use of New Technologies
Historically Armenians have been at the forefront of new technologies
and have adapted these to the needs of Armenian culture. The ACD hopes
to continue this tradition and encourage the use of modern
technologies in teaching the language, producing culture and making
Armenian part of the “technological world” of youth. As such, web
courses and other electronic learning opportunities, innovative apps
for culture and language, interactive electronic publications, online
networks and other such initiatives will be considered for
support. Emphasis will be put upon initiatives that reach out to
Armenian youth around the world electronically, linking them, bringing
Armenian culture to them and encouraging them to produce culture.

ii) Scholarships
Scholarships continue to be at the heart of the Department’s
funding. It has developed five principal categories for university
student support. In general, fewer, larger, merit-based scholarships
will be awarded in order to ensure greater impact. Full information on
each grant and applicant eligibility will be available on the
Department’s website. The scholarship categories for the next five
years are as follows: i) The Calouste Gulbenkian Global Excellence
Scholarship for Armenian Students (four per year); ii) The Calouste
Gulbenkian Armenian Studies Scholarship (six to ten); iii) Western
Armenian Teacher Training Scholarships (six); iv) Short Term
Conference and Travel Grants to Students in Armenia (approx. forty);
v) The Calouste Gulbenkian Undergraduate Studies Scholarships
(approx. forty). On an ad hoc basis, modest support to Armenian
university students already studying in Portugal may be considered.
Emergency scholarships will be provided to students caught up in
conflict or other major crisis situations. Finally, the potential for
a Calouste Gulbenkian Armenian Communities Department “Alumni
Association” and the establishment of an “Internship Programme” for
young Armenians will be explored.

2. Development of a viable Armenia through investing in its youth and
their commitment to civil society

Grants will be provided to civil society organisations that encourage
civic education, engagement and mobilisation among the youth,
providing them employment opportunities while being socially active
citizens. Projects that balance engagement in Yerevan with activities
and initiatives outside of the capital city will be favoured. Another
element of the Department’s work in Armenia will be to link young
intellectuals in the country with their peers in Europe, North America
and other developed countries. A series of exchange programmes, study
tours and intensive summer courses are planned to enhance the exposure
of Armenia’s scientific and cultural community to innovations and
trends elsewhere, particularly in the social sciences and humanities.
The ACD will collaborate with the Ministry of the Diaspora on certain
initiatives, particularly to strengthen the Western Armenian language
and culture. Within the Armenia “envelope” of funding, there is scope
for initiatives from Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh).

3. Improve Armenian-Turkish relations by sponsoring projects that
encourage a common understanding of their long shared history

Turkey is in the process of undergoing a significant transformation
which has enabled the discussion of subjects previously considered
taboo, including the Armenian Genocide. The Department welcomes this
and is keen to contribute to it. Two types of activities will be
supported in Turkey: first, the reinforcement of Armenian community
structures and institutions in the country, including schools,
particularly if they contribute to the preservation of Western
Armenian language, culture and traditions. Second, initiatives of
civil society and academic dialogue between Armenians on the one hand,
and Turks and Kurds on the other. This will include projects of
translation from Armenian into Turkish and Kurdish (and vice versa),
arts and cultural events, as well as research and training in Ottoman

4. Preserve and make available the Armenian literary heritage

A signature programme of the Department has been its publication
support for books, journals and newspapers, whether in Armenian or
about Armenian issues. This work continues, but will be modernised it
in two important respects.
First, while maintaining some funding for the “classics”, more
emphasis will be put upon producing publications on modern and
contemporary topics, including original research on current issues and
problems facing Armenia and the diaspora, contemporary literature,
social and cultural issues of interest to younger readers. Second,
print publishing will be complemented by electronic
publishing. Digital media will be privileged: funding will go towards
supporting newspapers and journals to go online, and encouraging the
production of interactive e-books, as well as Armenian-related
smartphone applications, online dictionaries and lexicons. It is
anticipated that online publications will receive the majority of this
funding by 2020.
Projects will be undertaken to digitise important ancient manuscripts,
archival documents and other rare texts.
A two-way translation programme will be developed: initiatives to make
important Armenian texts available in other significant languages will
be financed, along with translation into Armenian of important foreign
language texts.
Some funds will be set aside to explicitly encourage the creation of
new literature and culture – be it in Western Armenian or in another
language but concerning Armenians. To this end, the Department will
sponsor initiatives such as creative writing workshops that encourage
Armenians to engage in cultural production that is innovative and
Plans are being made for an international prize for best new fiction
and non-fiction, open to younger authors writing in Western Armenian.

5. Turning the Department into a hub of connections and strategic
thinking, and collaborating with other Departments within the

The ACD is changing from a traditional funder into a catalyst for
change, and a facilitator of strategic thinking and long term
planning. Its international and independent position is unique in the
Armenian world, enabling it to act above partisan community
politics. Organisations, experts and noted leaders will be invited to
Lisbon on a yearly basis to discuss current issues of mutual concern
and to strategise collectively to find solutions. The meetings will
focus on common interests and concrete goals, linking components of
the Armenian world that do not usually come together. The first
meeting will take place in 2014 on a broad “inaugural” theme:
Armenians in 2115. This will be a valuable chance for community
leaders to ask: “Where is the Armenian nation heading after the
commemoration of 2015?”
In collaboration with other colleagues at the Foundation, Armenian
cultural events will be staged in Portugal so that Armenian culture,
music, art and history becomes known in the Foundation’s home country.

6. Unforeseen circumstances and humanitarian needs (Urgent Action

From time to time there are calls to intervene in a major
humanitarian crisis (e.g. Syria). Some funds will be set aside in
order to cope with such unforeseen circumstances. On occasions
important opportunities related to the Department’s mission but not
necessarily programmed in its budget will be

Conclusion: Working through Partners

To realise its objectives, the ACD needs to work with excellent
partners around the world, be they organisations or individuals. The
first group of partners are its grantees. The Department is eager to
work much more closely with partners to ensure results. Funds will not
simply be distributed to organisations and individuals. Collaborative
work will continue on an ongoing basis. Second, further partnership
opportunities will be explored between the Department and other
organisations that have an interest in supporting Armenia and Armenian
initiatives. Joint programmes will be sought with organisations
whereby the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation will be one funder among
several others.
The ACD’s vision of the Armenian world of the early
2020s is a world in which Western Armenian is more secure as a living
language, sustained through a network of young qualified teachers and
intellectuals using innovative teaching and communication methods, as
well as a youthful generation in diaspora that continues to speak it
and create in it. It is hoped that in a few years Armenians will reap
the rewards of the Foundation’s scholarship programmes, as hundreds of
university educated men and women assume leadership positions in their
respective fields, and that Armenian Studies, as an academic field,
gains a number of new graduates not only researching issues and
problems currently facing the Armenian nation but also offering
evidence-based solutions. The ACD hopes for a much stronger civil
society in Armenia, with an engaged youth that contributes to the
country’s democratic development, and an academic community that is
globally connected and participating in international debates using
the latest research methods and approaches in the social sciences. It
also hopes to see engagement between Armenians and Turks advance to
such a degree that the dialogue between the two peoples – and the
issues it deals with – becomes part of the mainstream of the two
societies instead of being confined to the sidelines. Finally, it will
be a source of pride for the Department to see at the end of the Five
Year Plan a younger generation using scores of IT-based applications,
books, journals, newspapers and other electronic initiatives that
either use Western Armenian or enhance Armenian culture and learning
in the digital world.
In short, through the activities of this Plan, the Armenian
Communities Department strives to create a more viable future for the
Armenian people in which its culture and language are preserved and
valued. That, after all, is its mission.

The full plan is available in English, Armenian and French on our site: