Holy Etchmiadzin
Holy Etchmiadzin


by Julia Hakobyan

On an Armenian television quiz show, participants were asked the name of an Armenian church of the 16th century that is also the name of a TV company. For most participants it was an easy question and they gave the right answer: Shoghakat.

Both Shoghakats are well known and widely loved by Armenians. Besides sharing the same name, both are narrators of Armenia's cultural and religious history. And while Shoghakat church in Etchmiadzin is a stately bystander of history, the Shoghakat TV company is a contemporary advocate of religion, history and traditions of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Considering ways to re-engage citizens in spiritual life, in 1998, under then-Archbishop Karekin Nersissian (now His Holiness Karekin II), the Church established a small TV studio. The studio proceeded to produce programs and documentaries on religious and cultural issues, which were broadcast on H1, the State television company.

Within a short time, the popularity of the programs created demand that exceeded the technical capabilities of the modest studio. So, in 2002, Shoghakat gained a license and became an independent company.

Manya Ghazarian, executive director of the company, says that the need for religious programming reflected the general reawakening of spirituality in Armenia in the first decade of independence.

"One of the first productions of the studio was a series of creative video clips announcing the upcoming religious holidays and events connected with the 1700th anniversary of Armenia as a Christian state," recalls Ghazarian. "It was a very well-done performance by the Armenian State Theater of Pantomime. The effect was astonishing and exceeded all our expectations. People were calling and calling the studio, asking about other holidays."

During its five years on the air, Shoghakat TV has earned a strong place in the Armenian TV market. In fact, Shoghakat ("drop of light") does not have competition and became popular due to its non-political, non-commercial orientation, where the election of all programs-from cartoons to movies-is driven by a moral code and religious ethic.

"Just as the name of the company was chosen by our Catholicos, the strategy and mission are also directed by the Catholicos. We have one main goal-to advocate Christian values," Ghazarian says.

Today Shoghakat has an 18-hour broadcasting day and the staff of 60 produces more than 30 programs. Shoghakat screens and produces films about civilization, history, religion, nature, celebrities, global spiritual-cultural values, as well as covering public, economic, cultural, and ecclesiastical events.

"The Church Life" weekly news coverage presents services taking place in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, as well as in the dioceses of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The "Calendar" program features the religious holidays of Armenian and universal saints.

"Third Millennium" is a talk show during which clergymen and secular intellectuals are invited to participate in weekly discussions of religious concepts such as love, faith, trials, temptation and sin. On "Our Path," clergymen and secular guests discuss the relationship of Church and community.

Despite the spiritual orientation, the channel has a progressive and tolerant approach to the audience and offers some entertainment programs on music, international cuisine and even sport.

It has a series of programs for children, such as education on foreign languages, and fairy tales. Shoghakat also produces a Children's Bible series, introducing Biblical stories.

Shoghakat TV is unique in the region, as no other former Soviet republic has a designated religious channel, including even Russia, with its 100-million population, and strong tradition of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Araik Galoyan, program director, says that Shoghakat is a place where his hope to serve God and Armenia is satisfied.

Galoyan recalls the strict reprimand he got from the dean of the philosophy faculty of Yerevan State University where he studied in the '70s. The dean saw that Galoyan was wearing a cross on his neck and said: "You study philosophy, a science that proves atheism, yet you wear the cross. It's unacceptable."

Now, decades later when the Church has its place in the life of the nation, Shoghakat is a missionary for the years the Church was suppressed. Shoghakat TV is watched not only by the pious, but non-believers who want to educate their children in traditions of morality and faith-based lifestyle.

Originally published in the April 2007 ​issue of AGBU Magazine. Archived content may appear distorted on your screen. end character

About the AGBU Magazine

AGBU Magazine is one of the most widely circulated English language Armenian magazines in the world, available in print and digital format. Each issue delivers insights and perspective on subjects and themes relating to the Armenian world, accompanied by original photography, exclusive high-profile interviews, fun facts and more.