01 October 2004

UAE Journalist interviews Minister of Culture and Youth Affairs in Yerevan

Minister of Culture and Youth Affairs: Armenian Cultural Week will be organized in Sharjah next December.

Journalist asks why famous Armenian musicians such as Jivan Gasparyan and Ara Gevorgian do not visit the Arab World?

AZAD-HYE (September 2004): Ammar Al Sanjari, an Iraqi journalist based in the United Arab Emirates and correspondent of "Khaleej" Arabic daily of Sharjah, has conducted an interview with the Armenian Minister of Culture and Youth Affairs, poet Hovik Hovhannesyan (Hoveyan), in Yerevan, which was published in the cultural supplement of the newspaper on 6th September 2004.

We have selected and translated into English the following comments of the Minister:

We can say that Armenia was reborn after the Independence (1991). Armenians are eager to establish wider cultural cooperation with the Arab World, taking into consideration the centuries old relations between the two sides.

Armenia is a country of very deep cultural background. We can even say that it is a culturally immersed country. For example, we have many cities and towns called after cultural personalities, like the city of Apovian (named after poet Khatchatour Apobian), etc. There are more than 400 traditional dance groups in Armenia.

The number of Armenians outside Armenia is almost more than the Armenians inside the borders.

We have seven unions and syndicates for writers and artists.

We have to admit that the quantity and quality of the cultural activities in Armenia were reduced lately due to the strenuous everyday life of ordinary citizens, but, by all means, the present socio-economic situation is transitory.

There is no censorship on the freedom of speech in Armenia. Some opposition parties are not satisfied with the present situation and they are asking for short term magical solutions for all problems. This is, of course, not possible to achieve. The solutions do not come by wishful thinking or propagandistic campaigns. They need an organized approach. The Government
has done many things within a relatively short period of time (8 to 10 years).

More than 200 newspapers, weekly or monthly publications and periodicals are published in Armenia. We have more than 40 printing houses.

There are more than 60 political parties who all want to express their point of view, thus increasing the scale of different publications. It is fortunate that the number of political parties have shrunk now from 100 parties few years ago to just over 60.

Armenia is country of historical monuments. Despite the human and nature caused catastrophes throughout history, we managed to preserve many historical monuments and are offering them now to the visitors of the 21st century. These monuments appeal to the ordinary and the special group tourists. As Ministry of Culture and Youth Affairs I and my team work hard to promote them.

We are keen to develop relations with the Gulf Region. Arabs had significant effect on Armenian culture for many centuries during the Arabic presence in Armenia. There has always been a sort of mutual understanding between Arabs and Armenians throughout history.

The Ministry plans to organize a series of Armenian weeks in the Arab countries. In Sharjah, for example, Armenian cultural week will be organized in December this year, coinciding with the International Book Fair of Sharjah. This cultural week will provide an excellent opportunity to
introduce our culture to the Arab World (Sharjah is known to be one of the cultural centers of the Arab World). We highly appreciate the attention of the Ruler of Sharjah His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, to the noble cause of developing relations between our two countries (Armenia and UAE).

Journalist Ammar Al Sanjari asked the Minister why some of the famous names in Armenian music are not introduced to the Arab World. He mentioned for example the name of the Duduk player Jivan Gasparyan (music track of "The Gladiator", etc.) and composer Ara Gevorgian, whose audio cassettes are selling extremely well in the UAE market (as confirmed by the journalist himself).

Minister Hovik Hovannesyan responded saying: We absolutely support any effort that results in inviting these personalities to the United Arab Emirates or to any other country in the Arab World. These two names are in the music domain. There are many other famous names in other art domains. We are ready to cooperate with anyone who intends to invite them. We wish that Armenian groups continue to take part in festivals and cultural activities in the UAE. We have also an internationally famed museum of old manuscripts (called Matenadaran), which is specialized in preserving these valuable volumes. There are hundreds of Arabic manuscripts in Matenadaran, waiting for Arab scholars to do their researches.

We are open to Arab societies and feel very friendly with them, especially that many Armenian communities live in harmony and interaction within the Arab society.

Curriculum Vitae of the Minister of Culture and Youth Affairs Hovik Hovhannesyan (Hoveyan):

Date and Place of Birth: November 23, 1956, Yerevan
Education: 1973-1978 Philological Department of Yerevan State University
Primary Job, Post: Minister of Culture and Youth Affairs of the RoA
Career Experience:
Work in television and broadcasting system
2001 Secretary of Department of the Union of Writers of the RoA, jointly
Director of broadcasting of cultural programs on the National Radio.
Lecturer of the Journalism Department of the Yerevan State University.
From May 2004 Minister of Culture and Youth Affairs of the RoA
Other Information: Writer, translator, journalist, script writer
Party Membership: "Country of Laws" ("Orinatz Yerkir") Party
Personal Status: Married, two children

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