Interview with the ethnographer Hranush Kharatyan
Do you think something is done in Armenia to develop tolerance in Armenia?
I think what is done in Armenia to introduce or develop tolerance in Armenia is not tailored with due consideration of Armenian culture, mentality and context.
Under the cover of «tolerance» everything is proposed except for the issues of real concern of the whole society or some of its segments. There are only general theoretical discussions and calls like «Friends, let's live in peace and harmony» instead of real analysis.
Tolerance propaganda is not an end in itself. It should serve to solution of certain issues. I think that the question on what issues should be targeted by tolerance propaganda is not raised in Armenia, what particular culture it should stand for or confront.
Where the tolerance propaganda should start from?
I believe that firstly tolerance propagandists should clearly define what they want and secondly how they are going to achieve that. If they just declare “Let’s leave in harmony, peace and love” it will not bring a result. This is not a proper mean for development of the public culture.
There are other ways to achieve this goal. One of the most popular is serene arrangement of a life in an unobtrusive and not pretentious manner.
The majority of our society is tolerant. However it is not discussed and not showed at all how people with different backgrounds live side by side without additional efforts or additional attention.
The discussions on tolerance mostly are formal and serve to implement the order of parties or Europe. This is not our internal conviction and I will say even more: the majority of the society is indifferent and not involved in all these discussions.
There is no analysis conducted so far on where the expression of intolerance is and why there are so many calls to us to be tolerant, what are the reasons of intolerance and what should be done. These are real issues which are not discussed and no arguments are presented.
A certain group of people speak about tolerance, rights of minorities, lobbing for the cultural diversity. Is something changing?
I believe that the main problem is that we are not familiar with the culture of minorities. We discuss them; organize festivals of ethnic minority cultures but only representatives of the minorities take part in those events.
The structures propaganda for tolerance always talk about the importance of minorities' culture, cultural diversity but these are the mere words, there is neither cultural perception nor awareness to provide such a perception.
Another problem is that we constantly separate the culture of minorities and show it as something detached from our life and society. Thus the culture of minorities becoming a private issue. It is possible but I am sure that should not constantly focus on the notion minority culture. These cultures should not be separated from the culture in general.
What is the position of our public authorities in relation of minorities?
Armenian authorities are totally apathetic. They have neither projects nor understanding that people with different views may live in Armenia. Moreover, I deeply believe that Armenian authorities are against that but as far as it does not bother them they decide not to talk about it.
Identity and cultural development is out of their scope of interest until the moment when it does not lead to the crisis in the country. In the case of crisis either by aggressive means or by speeches there will be a reference to the issue.
Interview by Karine Ionesyan