Dr. Ludmila Haroutunian, Chair of the Department of Sociology of Yerevan State University, was a special guest of the Armenian Studies Program, the Department of Sociology, and the Women’s Study Program of Fresno State from Thursday, February 22 through Tuesday, February 27.
Dr. Haroutunian was invited by the Armenian Studies Program of Fresno State to spend a week in Fresno to lecture and speak to faculty and students.
Dr. Harold Haak, President Emeritus of Fresno State, was instrumental in arranging Dr. Haroutunian’s trip to the United States. Barlow Der Mugrdechian of the Armenian Studies Program and Matthew Jendian of Sociology arranged her schedule.
Dr. Haroutunian received advanced degrees in both economics (Yerevan State University) and sociology (Institute of Sociology, Moscow). She has been active in politics serving as a People’s Deputy of the former USSR and a member of the Supreme Council of the USSR.
Based on recent polling data, Dr. Haroutunian has been able to document the transformations taking place in Armenian society. In particular she has paid special attention to the role of women in Armenia.
During her stay Dr. Haroutunian gave two public lectures. Her first lecture, “Peace and Conflict in Nagorno-Karabagh,” was co-sponsored by the Armenian Studies Program, the Department of sociology, and the Peace and Conflict Studies Program.
The second lecture, “The Role of Women in the New Armenian Republic,” was sponsored by the Armenian Studies Program.
The collapse of Communism in East Europe is associated with drastic changes of the former Soviet Republics encompassing political policy, economic transformation, and institutional changes. Armenia specifically has undergone this reconstruction while still facing the challenge of war, economic blockade, and the creation of an Armenian State. The magnitude of these important issues however, is consequently overshadowing burgeoning social issues also inspired
by the release from communism. The Nagorno -Karabagh conflict, severe economic recession, and newly developed infrastructure seem to reduce the importance of gender relationships in contemporary Armenian society. Nevertheless Dr. Ludmila Haroutunian of Yerevan State University, forcefully attacks the assumption of diminished women’s roles in Armenia, especially now in this post-communist era.
Historically the women’s movement in Armenia has had an interesting progression. Traditionally the conservative image of women has been mere housewife and mother. In 1917, after the socialist revolution in Russia, the subsequent impact on all Soviet Republics was the liberation of women’s rights. The principle of socialism is equality. This manifests ideally into equality in salary, equality in rights, and even more so equality in poverty. This twentieth century innovation , granting unlimited rights to women and regarding them equal to men, came unexpectedly. Women had not fought for these accomplishments, there was no feminist movement in Armenia before 1917. Women’s representation was dictated by the state stipulating certain percentage of women serving in the Soviet Parliament . Unfortunately this participation contributed nothing to the advancement of women. The appointments were policy to symbolically represent that individual rights are best preserved and improved by the communist system.
Since the fall of communism, the charade of political influence is exposed and women must fight for what little ground they had. The feminist movement, under leaders like Dr. Haroutunian, rallied active segments of society, men and women, in the struggle against the remnants of the old system. The fight to place a woman in any prominent position within the newly created free society fell short. The conservative establishment, suppressed by communism, reassumed power and reasserted the traditional roles of women. Absence of the even the artificial balance enforced by Moscow has created an uphill endeavor for the small but growing feminist movement of Armenia. Dr. Haroutunian believes the exchange of inspiration and information will allow a greater equality to become a reality.