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July 29, 2004

ACNIS Takes on the Challenges of Armenian Culture and Values

Yerevan—The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) convened today a roundtable discussion on “The Challenges of Culture and Value System in Armenia.” As part of the forum, the Center released the results of its specialized opinion survey, entitled “Value and Ideology Benchmarks: Imperatives and Alternatives,” which involved more than 50 experts from Yerevan and across Armenia.

ACNIS director of administration Karapet Kalenchian greeted the invited guests and public participants with opening remarks. “These deliberations on culture, together with the expert survey preceding them, aim to present one focus group’s professional perceptions of ideology guideposts which are characteristic of a transitional period, as well as the true role and place of our system of values and patterns of cultural development,” he said.

ACNIS legal and political affairs analyst Stepan Safarian focused in detail on the findings of the expert opinion polls. Accordingly, the majority of the surveyed experts assert that Armenian society today does not have clearly-defined value-based guidelines. 4% of experts find it difficult to answer this question, and only 6% give a positive answer.





Difficult to answer 4%

Other: 2%
Society cannot clearly define value-based benchmarks  

According to 20% of respondents, the system of values operating in everyday life is the continuation by inertia of the system formed during the Soviet years, 10% think it comes to us from the depth of centuries, and 50% are convinced that it has been formed during the years of independence.

It is the continuation by inertia of the system formed during the Soviet years


It has been formed during the years of independence


It comes to us from the depth of centuries 10%


  • Soviet system of values is not functional, while the new one is not finally established marginal and eclectic
  • It has been formed during the years of independence
  • It comes to us from the depth of centuries
  • It comes from the depth of centuries together with our era’s “isms”

The experts are of the opinion that Armenian society often favors personal values and their manifestations, with egocentrism (90%) prevailing over altruism. Regarding group interests, 96% are of the opinion that society favors clan interests over collectivism. On the level of national values, 44% and 48%, respectively, choose nationalism and patriotism, and 80% and 72% cite the human values of cosmopolitanism and humanitarianism, respectively.

48% of respondent specialists think that the benchmarks of societal values should be defined by liberal democracy, 18% social democracy, and 18% national democracy.

Liberal democracy


Social democracy


Communist ideology 0%

National ideology 18%


  • Synthesis of liberal democracy and national ideology
  • Synthesis of social democracy and national ideology
  • Synthesis of all that will provide diversity, consensus, and tolerance in public life
  • National-spiritual system of values

6% of participants point to the supremacy of group interests as the primary obstacle to deepening of the democratic system of values adopted by the Armenian public, while 20% blame the society’s unsatisfactory level of political consciousness, 4% its low educational level, 2% the lack of propagation of relevant values, and 2% the counter-propagation of those values. 54%, 6%, and 2% find inappropriate the attitude of the authorities, opposition, and political forces supporting the authorities, respectively, toward those values.

Different strata of society are guided by group interests 6%

The dissonance and disunity of society


The unsatisfactory level of political consciousness 20%

The low educational level of society 4%

The lack of propagation of those values 2%

Counter-propagation of those values 2%

The inappropriate attitude of the authorities toward those values 54%

The inappropriate attitude of the opposition toward those values 6%

The inappropriate attitude of the political forces supporting the authorities toward those values 2%

Those values are foreign to society 0%


  • Absence of political will
  • Those values are false and useless

Taking into account today’s imperatives, 26% underscore the importance of a sovereign state, 14% human rights and freedoms, 14% spirituality, 14% constitutional order, 10% democracy, 10% patriotism, 6% separation of powers, and 4% equal rights.

Sovereign state


Human rights and freedoms


Spirituality 14%

Constitutional order· 10%

Democracy 10%

Patriotism 10%

Separation of powers 6%

Equal rights 4%


  • Freedom and fairness of elections
  • National independence


According to the experts, the average Armenian’s conduct of late has changed markedly toward types of negative demeanor. Only 6% assess lawfulness to be a positive feature of the average Armenian’s conduct, 94% as negative. Lawlessness in the average Armenian’s behavior is marked as negative by 100% of experts, fairness as positive by 38% and negative by 62%, unfairness as positive by 26% and negative by 74%, honesty and dishonesty are considered positive by 30% and 84% and negative by 70% and 16%, kindness and evil as positive by 46% and 70% and negative by 54% and 30%, initiative and passiveness as positive by 46% and 62% and negative by 54% and 38%, devotion and treachery as positive by 36% and 66% and negative by 64% and 34%, civility and rudeness as positive by 20% and 76% and negative by 80% and 24%. Diligence is marked as positive by 76% and negative by 24%.

It is noteworthy that the experts surveyed are convinced that young people are inclined toward democracy, the middle generation toward authoritarianism, and the senior generation toward totalitarianism. In the event of maintaining the current value benchmarks and system, Armenia will proceed to authoritarianism according to 66% of respondents, to totalitarianism accordingly to 12%, to democracy according to 16%.





Totalitarianism 12%


  • Difficult to answer
  • It proceeds nowhere, but rather merely continues its mission on Earth

38% opine that Armenia will establish a system of values characteristic of a democratic society in 25 years, 6% in 50 years, and 4% in 100 years, whereas 8% do not believe that Armenia will ever have such a system of values. 40% have a more optimistic attitude toward this issue. They think it will take five to ten years.

5 years


10 years


25 years 38%

50 years 6%

100 years 4%

Never 8%

The specialists maintain that from the perspective of civilizational values Armenian society is closest to Eastern civilization (10%), Russian civilization (10%), and European civilization (12%), while 44% hold that Armenian civilization is a synthesis of all.

Western or European civilization


Eastern-type civilization


Russian civilization 10%

We are a completely different civilization 10%

A synthesis of all 44%


  • Middle Eastern civilization
  • We are not a civilization
  • Eurasian civilization
  • Russian and Asian-Oriental civilization
  • We are inclined to the European, but practice the Eastern
  • We often have found ourselves under the ideological influence of different civilizations, and now are passing from one to another, but we are like all other nations with our national-spiritual values

What is the role of the spiritual world in our life today? 74% of experts conclude that this role is a small one, 24% think it plays no role, and only 2% say it leads a great role.





None 24%

14% of respondents point to the super-materialized character of contemporary life as the main reason for the relatively small role of the spiritual world, 20% to the low quality of spiritual sustenance, 6% to the lack of propagation of spiritual values, 6% to the passiveness of the intelligentsia, and 20% and 6% to the absence of exemplary behavior by the authorities and the political elite, respectively.

Super-materialized character of contemporary life


Variety of material challenges


Low quality of spiritual sustenance 20%

Lack of propagation of spiritual values 6%

Absence of exemplary behavior by the authorities 20%

Absence of exemplary behavior by the political elite 6%

Passiveness of the intelligentsia 6%

Decline in society’s senses 6%


  • Unspiritual essence of the spiritual class, together with all derivative consequences
  • Absence of the human being as a supreme value .
  • Being far from the spiritual world for 1000 years
  • Cultural foundations are cut off from the present, and today’s culture is poor
  • Materialization and politicization of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and the parallel budding of sects
  • Man has left God, and he probably will have to go a long way to reach Him again

66% of the respondents are male, and 34% female; 26% are 21-30 years of age, 40% 31-40, 24% 41-50, 10% 51 or above. All the experts surveyed have received higher education, 14% are full professors (PhD), 82% hold a Master’s degree, and 4% have earned a Bachelor’s degree. The second item on the day’s agenda was a presentation by Yerevan State University professor Vardan Khachatrian, who addressed “The Old and the New: Tradition and Progress.” “The unique aspect of Armenian identity is the cultural stratum that has come to us from ancient times and promoted the Armenian people’s survival,” he said, emphasizing the role of the church, which has recently diminished. “The guiding precept of the spiritual elite today is not the struggle for spiritual progress but the ability to adapt to the present regime,” Khachatrian concluded, noting that the latter is unable to foster society’s spiritual development since it pursues a policy of devastating symbols of national pride instead of paying tribute to them.

The formal presentations were followed by contributions by Anahit Bayandur of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly; former minister of state Hrach Hakobian; law professor Hrair Tovmasian; Mushegh Yekmalian of the OSCE Yerevan Office; Derenik Demirchian High School principal Anahit Bakhshian; Alexander Butaev of the National Democratic Union; MP Shavarsh Kocharian of the National Democratic Party; Yerevan State University professor Aram Harutiunian; Vahagn Khachatrian of the “Armat” center; Ruzanna Khachaturian of the People’s Party of Armenia; Artsrun Pepanian, political analyst for AR television; Gayane Markosian of the Harmonious World NGO; National Press Club chairperson Narine Mkrtchian; and several others.

ACNIS economic and diaspora affairs analyst Hovsep Khurshudian made summary remarks. “We may deduce from many of the answers that the reestablishment of values and traditions highly depends on the political system, and particularly morality of the ruling elite. Therefore only fundamental, system changes will lead to positive results,” he concluded.

Founded in 1994 by Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs Raffi K. Hovannisian, and supported by the Lincy Foundation and a global network of contributors, ACNIS serves as a link between innovative scholarship and the public policy challenges facing Armenia and the Armenian people in the post-Soviet world. It also aspires to be a catalyst for creative, strategic thinking and a wider understanding of the new global environment. In 2004, the Center focuses primarily on public outreach, civic education, and applied research on critical domestic and foreign policy issues for the state and the nation.

For further information on the Center and its activities, call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; e-mail root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am

Related Links

The Armenian version of the press release:

Armenian version

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“Value and Ideology Benchmarks: Imperatives and Alternatives” Presentation of Expert Poll Results (PDF-format, 1.11 Mb)

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