The national body charged with the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage is the Ministry of Culture, which is also responsible for the development of public cultural policy and related budget documents. It works alongside the Ministry of Education and Science, which develops standards for formal educational programs on intangible cultural heritage that it includes in state educational policy and corresponding budget documents. Also involved (for different activities) are the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, the Institute of Arts of the National Academy of Sciences, the Yerevan State Conservatory, the History Museum of Armenia, the State Museum of Armenian Ethnography and National Liberation Struggle and the Hohvannes Sharambayan Folk Art Centre. A department for national minority and religion issues operating under the Ministry of Culture envisages funds in its annual budget for the purpose of safeguarding the cultural heritage of national minorities and their involvement in culture-related processes. A ‘Procedure of identification, documentation, protection and information of intangible cultural heritage’ was approved by Decision No. 1173-N of the Government of the Republic of Armenia on 3 September 2011.
Several higher education institutions provide training in the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage and undertake related documentation and research activities. Such institutions include the Yerevan State University (with the UNESCO Chair for the History of Armenian Culture), the Armenian State Pedagogical University, the Yerevan State Conservatory and the Yerevan State Academy of Fine Arts. The Conservatory, for example, conducts scientific research in music, manages a bibliographical database and maintains an archive.
Work on inventorying was initiated by the Ministry of Culture in 2008 with the establishment of a working group with representatives from key academic institutions and the non-governmental organization ‘Calendar: Revival of Traditional Festivals’. The group produced a methodological booklet on intangible cultural heritage classification and criteria, which was widely distributed. A state Council for Intangible Cultural Heritage was set up in 2009 and as of 2010 the government adopted several decisions to establish the national lists and guide the inventorying work.
By Decision No. 310-A of 11 March 2010, the Government approved ‘The criteria for preparing the lists of intangible cultural values of the Republic of Armenia and the list of intangible cultural heritage values’. This was followed by Decision No. 36-N of 20 January 2011, by which the government approved ‘The criteria for preparing the lists of intangible cultural heritage needing immediate protection, and the list of intangible cultural heritage values based thereon’. It was also followed by Decision No 241-N of 1 March 2012 concerning ‘The criteria for recognizing the cultural areas of the Republic of Armenia and the list of cultural areas’. The list of viable intangible cultural heritage elements currently comprises 19 elements and the list of intangible cultural heritage needing immediate protection is composed of 7 elements.
The inventory lists are updated every two years following the ‘Procedure of identification, documentation, protection and information of intangible cultural heritage’ approved by the Government’s Decision No 1173-N of 3 September 2011. The updating is carried out through regular field trips throughout the territory of Armenia by groups of relevant specialists (ethnographers, archaeologists, folklorists, photographers, etc.).
Local self-government bodies, scientific institutions, religious and cultural organizations, creative unions and intangible cultural heritage bearers may also submit suggestions for the inclusion of a new element on the lists or the withdrawal of an inscribed element from the lists, by submitting a proposal to the state body. The final decisions about the updates are made by the Board of the Ministry of Culture.
Intangible cultural heritage plays an important role in education at all levels. In 2006, the government approved reforms to primary and middle-level vocational education, introducing a new list of vocational professions and providing training courses for teachers and masters of practical instruction. Handicraft educational programmes were implemented in 44 state education institutions in 2006-2012, of which 28 were at the primary level and 16 at the middle level. In 2007, a government Decree subsidised fees for national instrument education at music schools and, by 2011, 144 music schools were offering this programme. At the higher education level, the discipline of ‘Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Armenia’ was introduced into the Museum Management and Monument Studies programmes at the Armenian State Pedagogical University in 2010.
Educational programmes in handicrafts have also been set up for vulnerable social groups, in particular people with disabilities. For example, new ‘Art and Craft Centres for Disabled People’ were opened in Yerevan and Gumri in 2007 with support from UNDP, a private company, and Armenia’s Pyunik Union for People with Disabilities. They provide training in pottery, embroidery and wood and stone carving and the works are sold at various charity events and in souvenir shops to provide new sources of income for people with disabilities. The Special Education Centre for Children operates in boarding schools and children’s homes in Yerevan, teaching knowledge and skills related to folk songs and dance, applied and decorative arts, crafts, carpet weaving and playing musical instruments. There is a plan to open new branches in other regions of the country. Non-formal education has also been introduced in order to strengthen modes of transmission, with 21 such programmes offered by the Ministry of Culture in 2008-2012 with the participation of bearers, non-governmental organizations and state cultural organizations. One of these is the ‘School of Heritage’, established by the ‘Calendar of Holidays: Revival of Traditional Holidays’ non-governmental organization in the communities of Ashtarak and Oshakan. Currently, the school operates independently, instruction is provided by local ethnographers, dance specialists, musicologists together with bearers in diverse intangible cultural heritage domains and about 100 children have already benefited from these courses.
In 2012, the government approved ‘Standards for the recognition of cultural spaces in the Republic of Armenia and the list of cultural spaces’ and two settlements are included on the list at present: Gyumri city has been approved as a traditional craftsmanship space; and the village of Areni has been declared as a space of traditional wine-growing and wine-making.
Insofar as bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation is concerned, Armenia participates in joint conferences, international or regional performances, festivals and handicraft exhibitions. Three international conferences on intangible cultural heritage were held by the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology in 2007-2009. Armenia is also a member of the category 2 centre in Sofia, Bulgaria, for intangible cultural heritage in South-Eastern Europe.
Armenia reports here on two elements inscribed on the Representative List: Duduk and its Music (2008); and Armenian cross-stone art: Symbolism and craftsmanship of Khachkars (2010). In 2006, Armenia received support from the UNESCO/Japanese Funds-in-Trust for the project ‘Safeguarding of Armenian Duduk Music’ (2006-2009). As a result, the Armenian Folk Music Safeguarding non-governmental organization has provided training courses for duduk makers and players, organized competitions and produced a duduk handbook (with scores and DVDs). In 2012, the Pan-Armenian Duduk Festival was held with over 3,000 participants from Armenia and the Armenian diaspora. Duduk is now taught in almost all music and art schools (it has been free of charge in the former since 2007) and in the Conservatory. In 2011, a specialised duduk music school was set up offering five- and eight-year courses and, in 2013, a specialized duduk-making laboratory/workshop set up as a result of collaboration between bearers and the state.
During 2011-2012, eighty cross-stones were erected throughout the country through a collaboration between state and local governments, cross-stone makers and private customers. A cross-making school-workshop was planned for 2013 with state funding. Other promotional activities include the publication of an illustrated book and a textbook on the craft, the issuing in 2011 of six commemorative coins featuring cross-stone designs and a documentary film made by an American-Armenian director. Non-governmental organizations (in the case of duduk) and cross-makers (in the case of the Khachkars) took part in the preparation of the report.