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ACNIS Takes on the Challenges of Armenian Culture and Values

Go to the ACNIS main pageYerevan—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.

Yes 6%

No 88%

Difficult to
answer
4%

Other: 2%
Society
cannot clearly define value-based benchmarks

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.

It is the continuation by inertia of
the system formed during the Soviet years
20%

It has been formed during the years
of independence
50%

It comes to us from the
depth of centuries
10%

Other: 20%
  • Soviet system of values is not
    functional, while the new one is not finally established marginal and eclectic
  • It has been formed during the years
    of independence
  • It comes to us from the depth of
    centuries
  • It comes from the depth of
    centuries together with our era’s “isms”

  • 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.

    Liberal democracy 48%

    Social democracy 18%

    Communist
    ideology
    0%

    National
    ideology
    18%

    Other: 16%
    • Synthesis of liberal democracy and
      national ideology
    • Synthesis of social democracy and
      national ideology
    • Synthesis of all that will provide
      diversity, consensus, and tolerance in public life
    • National-spiritual system of values

    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.

    Different strata of
    society are guided by group interests
    6%

    The dissonance and disunity of
    society
    0%

    The
    unsatisfactory level of political consciousness
    20%

    The low
    educational level of society
    4%

    The lack of propagation
    of those values
    2%

    Counter-propagation of those values 2%

    The
    inappropriate attitude of the authorities toward those values
    54%

    The
    inappropriate attitude of the opposition toward those values
    6%

    The
    inappropriate attitude of the political forces supporting the authorities toward
    those values
    2%

    Those values
    are foreign to society
    0%

    Other: 4%
    • Absence of political will
    • Those values are false and useless

    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.

    Sovereign state 26%

    Human rights and
    freedoms
    14%

    Spirituality
    14%

    Constitutional order· 10%

    Democracy
    10%

    Patriotism 10%

    Separation of
    powers
    6%

    Equal
    rights
    4%

    Other: 6%
    • Freedom and fairness of elections
    • National independence


     

    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%.

    Democracy 16%

    Authoritarianism 66%

    Totalitarianism 12%

    Other: 6%
    • Difficult to answer
    • It proceeds nowhere, but rather
      merely continues its mission on Earth


    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.

    5 years 4%

    10 years 40%

    25
    years
    38%

    50
    years
    6%

    100 years
    4%

    Never 8%

    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.

    Western or European
    civilization
    12%

    Eastern-type
    civilization
    10%

    Russian
    civilization
    10%

    We are a completely
    different civilization
    10%

    A synthesis of
    all
    44%

    Other: 14%
    • Middle Eastern civilization
    • We are not a civilization
    • Eurasian civilization
    • Russian and Asian-Oriental
      civilization
    • We are inclined to the European,
      but practice the Eastern
    • We often have found ourselves under
      the ideological influence of different civilizations, and now are passing from
      one to another, but we are like all other nations with our national-spiritual
      values


    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.

    Great 2%

    Small 74%

    None 24%

    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.

    Super-materialized character of
    contemporary life
    14%

    Variety of material
    challenges
    10%

    Low quality of
    spiritual sustenance
    20%

    Lack of propagation of
    spiritual values
    6%

    Absence of exemplary
    behavior by the authorities
    20%

    Absence of exemplary
    behavior by the political elite
    6%

    Passiveness of the
    intelligentsia
    6%

    Decline in society’s
    senses
    6%

    Other: 12%
    • Unspiritual essence of the
      spiritual class, together with all derivative consequences
    • Absence of the human being as a
      supreme value .
    • Being far from the spiritual world
      for 1000 years
    • Cultural foundations are cut off
      from the present, and today’s culture is poor
    • Materialization and politicization
      of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and the parallel budding of sects
    • Man has left God, and he probably
      will have to go a long way to reach Him again


    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 the Lincy Foundation and
    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 2003, 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 and its activities, call (3741) 52-87-80 or
    27-48-18; fax (3741) 52-48-46; e-mail root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am

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