By Barlow Der Mugrdechian
The UNESCO Chair of Armenian Art History completed its first year at Yerevan State University in the Spring 1997 semester. Bishop Garegin Hovsepian had established a Chair of Armenian Art and Archaeology at Yerevan State University in 1919 during the period of the First Republic of Armenia. After the establishment of Soviet rule, the Chair was closed, mostprobably because the religious content of the art ran counter to Soviet ideology. So, for nearly seventy years, there was no program in Armenian Art at Yerevan State University.
Starting from scratch, Professor Levon Chookaszian reopened the Program in the 1996-1997 academic year. Twenty-eight students enrolled in the first year courses-23 women and 5 men. Ten faculty join Professor Chookaszian in the Program. AS one enters the newly renovated UNESCO Armenian Art office, one sees the beauty of Armenian art decorating the walls. Yerevan State University is moving towards the four-year baccalaureate degree and away from the previous five-year system.
During the first year courses such as Art of the Ancient World, Early Armenian Art, Pagan and Early Christian Art, and Introduction to Armenian Art History were taught. In addition basics of architecture and Byzantine art, archaeology, language, painting and drawing, and art in general, as well as the history of Armenian coins were offered. Two foreign languages are required as well as two years of Classical Greek and Classical Armenian.
Students have a difficult schedule of classes, Monday through Saturday, for a total of 36 hours of class a week.
The UNESCO Chair of Armenian Art is being partially funded by a grant from UNESCO which will run through 2001. The University pays the salaries of the faculty and the UNESCO grant pays for a small amount of books and equipment.
“The study of Armenian art is important for the University,” says Chookaszian, “It brings a much needed knowledge of culture to the University.”
As more and more specialists become involved with the UNESCO Chair, experts will be prepared for study abroad. Exchange programs with foreign universities are also in the works.