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Change of school history subject title stirs controversy in Armenia

24 January 2024
Armenian history textbooks.

A proposal to change the name of a school subject, Armenian History, to the History of Armenia has stirred controversy in the country, despite government reassurances that the curriculum would remain unchanged.

During a meeting of the ruling Civil Contract party last week, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated that a group of teachers and scientists had appealed to the Ministry of Education to change the subject’s name.

Pashinyan stated that he agreed with the proposal, adding that he ‘blamed himself’ for not ‘noticing this subtlety’ earlier.

‘There is a very serious difference in the deep content because the history of the Armenian people implies the history of the absence of statehood with episodes of existence of statehood, and the history of Armenia implies a history of statehood with episodes of absence of statehood’, said Pashinyan.

On Tuesday, Deputy Education Minister Araksya Svachyan stated that none of the current history textbooks would undergo any changes aside from their titles.

A war of words

Despite the ministry’s assurances that no changes would be made to the curriculum, Pashinyan’s statement prompted public criticism. 

On Monday, the Ministry of Education submitted the proposal to change the subject’s name to the Unified Website for Publication of Legal Acts’ Drafts, a government portal used to share draft legislation with the public before its discussion.

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The ministry argued that the name change reflects the different periods of the history of Armenian statehood and the Armenian people.

The portal on which the ministry submitted the proposal allows people to vote on drafts and leave their own suggestions, though such voting is not legally binding.

At the time of publication, 55% voted against the draft, while around 30 people left comments or suggestions.

Some pointed out that the word ‘Hayots’ from ‘Hayots Patmutyun’ (‘Armenian history’), was derived from the word ‘Hayq’, Armenia’s ancient name, and therefore denoted the history of both the Armenian nation and state.

This, they argued, was more reflective of Armenia over the past two millennia, rather than only the modern Armenian republic.

‘Armenian History is a much more comprehensive concept and includes the history of our people in the pre-state period, the history of Urartu and Greater Armenia, the history of Armenian principalities and mediaeval kingdoms, and much more’, wrote Avetik Chalabyan.

‘To replace it with the “History of Armenia”, which refers to a relatively recent period, will artificially exclude a significant part of Armenian history from teaching.’

In an interview with Armenia’s Public Radio, historian Edgar Hovhannisyan argued that the subject’s original name, Armenian History, was also representative of the Armenian Diaspora, which constitutes the majority of Armenians.

‘If we are talking about the history of Armenia, are we not going to study the Armenian colonies, the Diaspora? For example, the first seeds of the idea of restoring Armenia’s independence were born in the Indo-Armenian colony in the 18th century’, he said.

Read in Russian on Jnews.