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South Caucasus


Georgi Vanyan
Report made by
Principal of Mkhitar Sebastaci educational complex

The role of the educational system in overpassing the Armenian - Azerbaijanian conflict

Step into dialog: Armenia - Azerbaijan - Turkey
Isn’t it high time that we came up close to one another, get to know one another, forgive one another and love one another? (Hovhannes Toumanyan, “In the Darkness of Wrong Beliefs, y.1909).

The Karabakh movement started on February 18 of the year 1988, let us consider it a starting point.

Being the participants of the unexpected and crowded February rallies of the year 1988, we thought we would achieve positive results and satisfaction within a short period of time, we presumed that our impartial and fair requirements would be met within a couple of days and each of us would return to his or her own affairs. We thought that as a result of the rallies the three of outstanding persons, whose names were Ashot, their surnames being Manucharyan, Bleyan and Dabagyan, would return to their favourite work, their author’s pedagogics being held in N.183 Yerevan School.

Alas, several days later the peaceful movement was transformed into an Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict and, further, it was turned into a war. Today, my daughter Lilit, a graduate of our school, who turned 10 years old in the year 1988, is currently engaged as a specialist in the settlement processes of the conflict. If this situation holds, then my granddaughter Araksik, who studies in our general educational complex, will have to live and work under the conditions of the conflict, “frozen” by the Cease-Fire Agreement signed on May 12th, 1994…

The conflict seems to be frozen deliberately so that every generation would be able to receive his or her own share and interest in it….

What is the situation like on the 200-kilometre line of the cease-fire dividing the two neighboring nations, the Azerbaijan people and us, the Armenians? What do we know about it? There are no international peacemaking forces on the contact line, which is inspected mainly and solely by the special envoy of the OSCE Andjey Casprzyk and five of his field assistants. And in this case when the cease-fire regime in Kosovo, the centre of Europe, is being secured the European military contingent, some thousand in number.

On the other hand, the sides are doing their endeavours to reach an agreement of worldwide value over the document composed of several pages entitled “the Main principals” which, as supposed, was to have been signed between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan for nearly 14 years since the conclusion of the cease-fire agreement. But the fact remains that 30 military men have been killed this year in the course of the incidents on the front line.

Thunderous hurrah to “Days of Azerbaijan” joint project initiated by the Caucasus Center of Peace - Making Initiatives and the School of Human Rights Defenders of Mkhitar Sebastatsi Education Complex for the reason that on the twentieth year of the conflict the task to understand the role of one of the most factful and supporting forms of the public activity, that is the education and particularly the general educational system is raised while overpassing this confrontation.

I do admit that as a man the consequences and the settlement process of this conflict has been the part of my life, but as a figure the activity of my life was directed at overpassing the conflict. I was not only confused, but also concerned about this simple event. It is good that there was no delay in the reactions of my colleagues, Ashot Tigranyan, Ashot Abgaryan, Arsen Galstyan, Lusine Aleksanyan and others to proceed with the implementation of an educational- informative and creative-research program “Bridges of Education” for the pupils of 7-12 forms. The goal and objective of the program is directed at the creation of an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual understanding among young men and women which can be done with their help of their teachers and parents, five countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Iran. In such a case, by way of comfort, it is better to say, “Better late than even later”.

Thus, my dear colleagues and students, let us become aware of the role of the education directed at overpassing the conflict between our societies, it signifies that we have to embody and shift all the losses, damage and achievements of these days and their further development onto an individual level which means that we need to replace our sluggish and irresponsible state with an active, energetic and responsible participation by each of us. I am well aware that we won’t succeed in exhausting this subject smoothly, at one sitting, by limiting only to one program and one stage (within 4 or 7 days). Today, we commence to work together. I assume that the observations revealed within this program and concerning the Armenian reality are sure to be projected also onto the reality of our neighbouring country. Should it be the other way, then we can conclude that the matter here concerns only the Armenian reality.

Can the influence of the education be stronger than that of the street’s?

“The sidelong glances and oppositions broken out for the sake of tribal interests, the enemy songs, suspicious insinuations lasting for over many years have been accumulated in the hearts of people and nation that can be burst on some unfortunate day by arising wonders of innocent people: how and why did all these happen?” – Hovhannes Toumanyan

During the collapse of the Soviet State and the restoration of independent states and the transitional period of our nations, the Soviet system of education displayed its complete bankruptcy: the streets along with its insinuations seemed to be stronger than the state and public institutes (including schools and the system of education) taken together. Why? It is one of the issues of our subject.

What has the school along with its teachers, lessons, textbooks and curriculums, various events been engaged during the conflict period lasting for twenty years? Do you notice that the leaders (representatives) of European countries and structures who have visited Armenia or Azerbaijan for the last 2 or 3 years, as a rule, end up their intermediary missions with making appeals to the authorities: it is high time to prepare both of the societies to arrive at the mutual acceptable and compromising solutions and agreements… The structure leaders representing the system of education and getting accustomed to be governed and govern based on the instructions are in expectation… What does the general educational system do in the direction of the settlement of the conflict under such conditions when the government delays granting related instructions? You can agree that this is the subject of a special study.

What gladdens me is that in today’s Armenian schools, the textbooks on public sciences do not contain any hostile expressions or words of impatience in relation with our neighbouring nations. This concerns the textbooks and programs, but in a real school life, when discussing the questions of our newest history and the problems of the existing Armenian-Azerbaijan opposition and when expressing one’s point of views, how can the conduct and attitude of our teachers be considered to be correct, accurate, constitutional and to what extent are the rights and the freedom of a man respected? But the matter is that according to the Constitution, the foreign politics of the Republic of Armenia is being conducted based on the standards of an international right with a view to establishing friendly, mutually beneficial relations with all the countries and the use of rights and freedom of a teacher is banned for the purpose of stirring up national, racial, religious hatred and the propaganda of violence and war.

The pupils of our school of human rights activists are scheduled to take up a three-day start course within this program. They are to actively and freely express their views on these questions while based on the recent researches, over 50 percent of the citizens of our country are scared to make use of their rights of expression. I am certain that our pupils and teachers with the help of our colleagues from Azerbaijan will analyze the state of freedom of speech and right of expression in the Educational Complex on impartial basis. What interests me is to what extent the educational complex headed by me is considered to be an open civil society and to what extent the right of expression of a pupil or a teacher is secured regardless of the subject of the discussion.

“Our neihgbours do not know us, but do we know them more?” – H.Toumanyan

At this stage of the development of our joint project, I find some methodological postulates useful and achievable, which in spite of all my intellectual efforts, were turned into plagiarism by Hovhannes Toumanyan. Here’s one of them: “No doubt, there exist real reasons of discrepancy, but when you familiarize yourself more closely with the events and look deep inside the circumstances, you can see for yourself, that the main reason is caused by wrong beliefs, ignorance of facts and misunderstanding.” I am sure that the research project entitled “Education Bridges” launched by our teachers will make an important stimuli for mutual recognition and mutual understanding.

We, the representatives of the two nations (headmaster, teacher or pupil), ought to unconditionally and without reserve respect one another. We tend to force a smile of kindness and good-neighborhood when meeting with West-European people, but when meeting with Azerbaijan people, Turks or Georgians we assume a resentful, exacting and accusatory posture…

Unconditional respect for one another!

Let us get to know one another, excuse me, let us impose and offer yourself and help to get to know each other in all the spheres and on all the levels.

We ought to respect and show interest in order to get to know each other! There will be no doubt that it will contribute to the increase of respect and interest. I am certain that a short-term joint project with our Azerbaijan colleagues in the Winter Camp of the Educational Complex will display this effect of a boomerang.

With sincere and open hearts we will approach out neighbouring nations, all people, including our neighbours Azerbaijan people.

“Should we come closer to their ordinary people, we are sure to find more worthy respect and love rather than if we come closer to their great, outstanding people in biliousness.” - H.Toumanyan

Our historical burden, the “contention” accompanying the history of our nations deprive us of the possibility to live our life of a contemporary and get involved in the problems of today’s man and society. It looks like a young child, a pensioner or a housewife are absorbed in the TV serial so as to have an immediate emotional implication towards good and evil as if the situations or events are happening in respect of them and with their participation. I wish we shook off the historical burden the way a traveller shakes off dust from his boots. People living today, let us live our individual life and settle real problems!

Instead of epilogue

In the autumn of the year 1992, exactly 15 years ago after my unforgettable visit in Baku I published a long article entitled “By rejecting the war, no peace can be established” in “Azg” newspaper issued in November 19, 1992. I would like to cite a part from this article: “We can organize an immediate exchange of information, have full-fledged news agencies. Let us forget such definitions as “robbers”, “enemy”, “barbarians”. Let us not stir up and spread such wrong beliefs and not rejoice about the death of our enemies. Instead, let us feel and sympathize with one another and attempt to fully display the internal life of our republics in black, white, red, in short, all the colours.

I do wish the first TV marathon were organized among the pupils and the students of either republic. What do they think of each other, how can one proceed from conflicts to cooperation? Why not prepare publications for newspapers or magazines of a neighbouring country or grant our broadcast to our neighbours? Why are our citizens not able to place their articles and letters in the newspapers of the neighbouring country? The pupils and the teachers of either republic ought to send each other letters and postcards, as well as get prepared for mutual visits of the first group of the children…” With all my sincere heart I hail and welcome the activity undertaken by the Caucasus Center of Peace - Making Initiatives headed by an old friend of mine, Georgi Vanyan, the curriculum of the School of Human Rights Defenders, the project “Days of our neighbouring countries in the educational complex…”. I applaud all the participants of the Days of Azerbaijan. We together ought to arrive at a common decision: to do our endeavours at any price and at all costs to preserve peace, live in harmony and create a brotherhood relation between our nations.

Ashot Bleyan