History is never an open and shut book that cannot be revisited or further analyzed with the passage of time and the progress of scientific inquiry. Popular narratives baked into the national identity can be given deeper meaning and insight or, in some instances, radically revised, based on hitherto buried knowledge illuminated through innovative methods and research tools. Thanks to the digital revolution’s instantaneous access to sources around the globe, missing links buried in the annals of the past, suddenly resurface, leading to never-imagined breakthroughs. Not too long ago, the discovery of the first leather shoe on earth and a thriving wine-making industry in ancient Armenia changed the way we—and the rest of the world—think about our place in world civilization.
However, what hasn’t changed is our need for the brilliant scholars, documentarians, scientists, journalists, curators and educators to apply their talents, expertise and worldly knowledge to the study of the Armenian Experience, both ancient and contemporary.
Reason enough why AGBU has long supported young scholars and researchers in their quest to master Armenian Studies—especially in today’s environment, in which the tug of war between documented facts and revisionist spin can lead to dire outcomes. This was witnessed during the Artsakh War, when the multi-million dollar PR and propaganda machine of Armenia’s historical enemies compromised its credibility in mainstream circles.
Since the introduction of the AGBU Scholarships Program over a century ago, hundreds of scholarships have been awarded to candidates across the globe who are pursuing Armenian Studies. Five endowments have been established by AGBU donors for this specific purpose. Recently, AGBU’s commitment was exemplified in the latest round of funding awarded or designated to a new generation of Armenophiles in their respective fields of interest.
In February 2021, AGBU renewed its longstanding support of the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts (better known as Matenadaran) in a ceremony marking its eight-year commitment to enlist young researchers in Armenia. At the same time, AGBU launched a new research grants program to further develop knowledge and understanding of Artsakh. This comes on the heels of the news from the AGBU London Trust that AGBU was providing scholarships for Classical Armenian Studies at Oxford University.
AGBU Matenadaran Research
Since 2013, as part of a joint doctorate program of the Matenadaran and the Armenian Ministry of Education and Science, AGBU has awarded over $52,000 in scholarships to 55 researchers in the fields of Armenian and world history, manuscripts research, and art history.
AGBU Director of Operations Lena Baghdassaryan pointed out that many of the awardees are affiliated with other institutions as educators or researchers, as they could not otherwise sustain their livelihoods. “Their love of the subject, their high-caliber academic credentials, and in some cases, their knowledge of ancient languages enable them to identify the original sources behind many of the texts and manuscripts that are critical to exposing the nuances and contours of the Armenian story.” She added: These awards demonstrate AGBU’s appreciation of their sacrifices and encourage them to persist in this important work.”
AGBU Armenia Deputy Director Hovig Eordekian, speaking at the ceremony, remarked that AGBU support for the institute was built around a shared vision for the need to preserve, reinforce and disseminate Armenian culture globally. “Already in the 1930s, AGBU was helping the Matenadaran build its new premises on the grounds of the National Library in Yerevan after it was evicted from the Holy See of the Armenian Church by Bolshevik secularism. Come independence, AGBU supplied the institute with much-needed equipment and sponsored its publications,” Eordekian explained.
Monte Matevosyan, a beneficiary of the scholarship program, thanked AGBU on behalf of his peers for enabling them to conquer new scientific heights in a time of profound crisis for Armenia, saying: “Now more than ever we must look to science to help advance the state.”
AGBU Artsakh Research Grants
Responding to the urgency of a new front in the information war surrounding Artsakh, AGBU launched its Artsakh Research Grants to raise awareness and enhance knowledge of the region through verified mainstream and scholarly research.
The grant plans to enrich assets on Artsakh’s history, culture and current affairs by adding original published work in the form of articles, reports, as well as high-quality videos and podcasts in English and other languages to an already rich pool of primary resources.Research may include but is not limited to historical and contemporary work examining social, cultural, psychological, legal, economic, technological, humanitarian, and environmental issues of the region’s past, present and future, according to AGBU.
“The genesis of this grant was the concept of knowledge-based identity formation,” said AGBU Central Board member and education specialist Lena Sarkissian. “We established it to build reliable knowledge of Armenia and Artsakh based on quality data, verifiable sources, and on-the-ground research that will withstand the test of time. The ultimate goal is to spread these narratives to the world.”
Each grantee will receive up to $10,000, depending on the scope of work. AGBU’s Artsakh Research Grants is open to all interested in developing an expertise and understanding of Artsakh, including grad students, scholars, journalists, and others. Awardees will be announced at the end of April 2021.
Classical Armenian Studies at Oxford
Looking to expand the frontiers of Armenian education, AGBU London Trust recently made a substantial gift to support a scholarship program for graduate students pursuing a master’s degree in Classical Armenian Studies at Oxford University.
The new scholarship, open to students from around the world, will provide support for one graduate student per year for five years to foster greater understanding of Armenian literary culture and its historical background through the critical reading of a wide range of Armenian texts.
Professor Theo Maarten van Lint, who holds the Calouste Gulbenkian Professorship of Armenian Studies and directs the course at Oxford, called the AGBU initiative “an indispensable element” in offering worthy candidates access to the Master’s in Classical Armenian Studies. “I am extremely grateful to Joseph and Jenny Oughourlian and the AGBU for this generous and strategic donation.”
The program represents the next stage in an already fruitful partnership between the organization and Oxford, which for the past seven years provided financial support to Armenian students reading a range of subjects at the university.
Talking about the new partnership, AGBU London Trust chairman and vice-president of the AGBU Central Board Joseph Oughourlian said: “As the world’s largest Armenian organization, it was a logical development for AGBU to support the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford, which has pursued Armenian Studies since the mid-nineteenth century. We deeply thank Professor van Lint and his team for allowing this cooperation to happen.”
Reported by Gevorg Mnatsakanyan, Carolina Gazal, and Laura L. Constantine
Originally published in the March 2021 issue of AGBU Magazine.