Hovsep Khurshudyan: "The perception of culture is distorted in the Armenian society"

Director of the Armenian Arax Publishing House and a member of the Steering Committee of EU-Eastern Partnership Culture and Creativity Programme, Hovsep Khurshudyan talks about a harmonizing role of culture in a modern state building and ways of cultural strategy creation, and also lists important for Armenia events in the cultural sphere.

In my opinion, culture in the first place is the reflection of human spiritual composition. It includes forms of individual and social consciousness, based on spiritual practices and experiences of the individual. And then these forms of consciousness are reflected in various forms: from architecture to texts, from music to politics and politeness. The level of nation’s culture is manifested in how it responds to the questions: "What?", "How?" and "Why?".

The perception of culture, unfortunately, is distorted in the Armenian society. First of all, it is perceived as a set of previously accumulated tangible assets. For this reason, if you ask, what is the Armenian culture, most people will tell you about the architecture, music, dance, costumes and the Armenian Apostolic Church. While culture is something that, if it does not evolve, it becomes anti-culture. Culture is continuous reevaluation on the part of human free thought, freedom of the mind, which can provide a spiritual and harmonious development of societies and peoples and good living standards.

If we consider the point of view of social and political life, any country is built on two pillars: politics and economy. Culture balances those two and makes them harmonious, because only in such case, the modern state can be effective and fully carry out its functions. Countries where politics dominates the economy are slipping into totalitarianism. A typical example of such a country was the Soviet Union of Lenin and Stalin period, and now almost all the clerical states belong to this class. Countries where the economy dominates politics turn into oligopolies. In other words, the culture in these countries is so underdeveloped that it can not perform its function of balancing. On the contrary, in these countries any channel of cultural development is stifled. This is the case for nowadays Armenia. Thus, all the shortcomings of today's Armenian state and society have a cultural basis. It is no coincidence that the financing of culture in countries like ours is carried out on the residual principle. The study "Cultural Code of Eastern Partnership", carried out in recent years by funding of Civil Society Forum of the Eastern Partnership, showed the same pattern in the Ukraine and Moldova from the Eastern Partnership countries. In Belarus, on the contrary, the dominant political component violates cultural development. Formal and informal institutions that regulate people's lives, including in the economic and political spheres, are the product of culture. I can not imagine how without a strong cultural breakthrough we can get out of the deep political and economic crisis in which we gradually go down due to the prevailing values and in an easy state of mind of the ruling clans, which are the carriers of these manners, their reflection and culmination.

In order to create favourable conditions for the development of cultural and creative sectors, there’s an urgent need to develop a strategy for the cultural development. This should be carried out by experts: culture experts, philosophers, sociologists and political scientists. Otherwise we will face another failure, formal or incomplete studies. Unfortunately, in Armenia, these specialists can be counted on the fingers. But they exist, and one must go to them and ask them to take on this important mission. But even in this case, at each stage of their work there’s a need to ensure continuous and high quality discussion - brainstormings with the involvement of a wide range of experts and stakeholders. The strategy should be polished at all stages, and this process must be super transparent. The process itself has to be the wave of cultural signals and messages to the society. A discourse should be created and developed. And then it will be possible to design and label specific steps to be implemented and they will bring not only segmental and local revival to some marginal culture circles (which was a case due to the provision of various Western cultural grants), but should have maximum mass effect, and thus high efficiency. 

Successful cultural projects in Armenia

As one of specific projects that were of great importance for Armenia, I can mention Charles Aznavour’s concerts and regular visits to Armenia, due to which the general public became interested in his civic activities and showed solidarity with his humanistic position and standpoint.

Another example is the open air concert of SOAD (System Of A Down) in the Republic Square, which also aroused the interest of the general public to the civic activities of Serj Tankian and sympathy for his humanistic position.

Another influential project was the visit of Kim Kardashian to Armenia and Kanye West’s concert at Yerevan Swan Lake 

Finally, annual film festival "Golden Apricot" should be considered as a successful project, although it still remains within a narrow community, in the "elite" scope.


Hovsep Khurshudyan is the chairman of the “Free Citizen” Civic Initiatives Support Centre, as well as the coordinator of the fourth group of the Civil Society Forum of the Eastern Partnership since 2004 and member of the Steering Committee of the Forum. Recently, he was elected as a member of the Steering Committee of EU Eastern Partnership programme “Culture and Creativity”. He is also the director of the “Arax Publishing House” LLC. Hovsep Khurshudyan is an associate expert of the  Armenian Institute of International and Security Affairs (AIISA) and lecturer at the Expert school.

Other interesting stories: