Perhaps reflecting on the fifth anniversary of a new programme seems premature. It is accepted practice that the tenth anniversary is the first stage at which to reflect on the activities of a programme. The impropriety of disrupting an established practice does not make me uncomfortable in the slightest. Taking into account the difficult circumstances in which the Programme of Armenian Studies came to life as well as the fact that it has continued to take root and flourish over its five years thanks to the gargantuan efforts of a few devoted individuals, it is worth reflecting on this extraordinary phenomenon in and of itself.
The Programme of Armenian Studies is the result of very serious crises that have tormented me often over the course of two decades. First, the retreat of Western Armenian and the gradually dwindling number of native speakers have opened the door to serious concerns. Second, the sharp decline in standards as a result of a weak grasp of the universal values of political, social and cultural bodies in the Armenian world as well as their inept modus operandi that has paralysed Armenian life and reached epidemic proportions put me in charge of creating a new activities platform. Enlisting a giant army of the idly dissatisfied as foot soldiers would not have been an acceptable choice. More than that, the mark of complicity in a cultural crime would have been seared onto my conscience.
There was also the issue of self-perception as being an inextricable part of a whole. Driven as a diasporan by an awareness of the responsibility to make enchanting Armenian hues visible in the larger mosaic of minorities and as a diaspora Armenian aware of the fact that it is a varied composite of minorities within majorities, we started the journey by giving priority to Western Armenian and to the promotion of Armenian studies.
This undertaking is also profoundly personal, a result of the topsy-turvy nature of my own scholarly life. Over the years I have spent working in the realm of higher education, a bitter experience arising out of the indifference and neglect shown toward minority languages, especially Western Armenian, Armenian literature and Armenian culture befell me; my scepticism toward the need for non-Armenian institutions of higher learning was cemented; and my perceptions were reformed in this domain. The entire perception of the educational and academic needs of the diaspora and tending to them is naturally only the concern of Armenians and no one else. In the context of those needs, creating a body to immediately tend to them became essential. The Programme of Armenian Studies is the INDEPENDENT body that was called on to tend to these needs within the limits of its capacities, far from any profit or partisan considerations. Taking into account the limits of our financial and staffing capacities, we accomplished over the course of five years what other organisations would not have even been able to imagine doing over the course of ten years. No, I do not want to be coy—what needs to be said must be said. There have been immeasurable hardships in the foundation of this programme, inestimable personal and financial sacrifices and crisis-ridden, sleepless nights. We are not devoid of shortcomings, of which we are entirely aware. We pledge to rectify them in our next stage.
The Programme of Armenian Studies is walking toward the future with confidence. Our journey will not falter due to uncertainty and a weak grasp of the values that reign around us, because the vitality and thirst for the success of a programme can be reduced to three questions. We have made the What are we doing? Why are we doing it? How are we doing it? the focus of our next stage. We have the preparation to render the ideal that guides our steps into tangible plans as well as the determination to realise them.
Of course, in order to do our work, these qualities alone would not be sufficient without the financial support of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, for which we are profoundly grateful. We consider its successive grants over the course of the years a vote of confidence to the growing reputation of our programme. The responsibility of supporting us should not fall on its shoulders alone. The Programme of Armenian Studies is an entirely non-partisan institution and, belonging to us all, therefore deserves the attention and care of us all.
For us, our fifth anniversary marks a period of revitalisation—an opportunity to turn our fixed gaze toward new horizons.
Dr Krikor Moskofian