Video: Country Talk Armenia

10. Mai 2022 ScholarsEntwicklungsforschung
Project BOAA
In the third edition of the OeAD Country Talks, APPEAR scholar Hasmik Hovakimyan invites us to a journey to learn more about geography and culture as well as the cuisine of Armenia.

The OeAD Country Talks introduce countries of origin of scholars and alumni to a wider audience. After a two years interruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic the third edition of the OeAD Country Talks could finally take place on 27 April 2022 at the premises of OeAD. This edition was dedicated to the country Armenia, which in recent years established closer ties with Austria through development cooperation but also in the field of higher education. As an innovation and a result of the adoption of digital technologies during the pandemic, the Country Talk was for the first time also live steamed on the OeAD YouTube Channel. 

The event began with welcome remarks by Gerhard Volz, Head of Department for International Cooperation in Higher Education at OeAD, who took over the role of the moderator for this evening. As the first speakers he invited OeAD managing director Jacob Calice and his excellency, Armenian Ambassador Armen Papikyan, to present their welcome remarks. Mr. Calice briefly introduced the OeAD as well as the APPEAR Programme, also extending his appreciation to the Austrian Development Cooperation for funding APPEAR since several years. He highlighted that Armenia became a partner country for APPEAR only since 2015, at the same time as Moldova and Georgia “but already now a good number of projects have been implemented”. Further he emphasized that “especially in these difficult times now, when a brutal attack on sovereign neighboring country is taking place, we think that intensified cooperation in science and research between Austria and these post-soviet countries is of particular importance. It will deepen our mutual understanding and contribute to the fundamental principle that without freedom no science is possible that will contribute to a better and sustainable world”.

Ambassador Armen Papikyan thanked the OeAD for providing the opportunity to present Armenia in the first Country Talk after the COVID-19 pandemic. He mentioned the close ties between the Austrian Development Cooperation and Armenia and also referred to a recent visit by Austrian Minster of Foreign Affairs, Alexander Schallenberg, to Armenia in February 2022. During his visit the intensification of cooperation in the field of education and sciences and student exchange, research and development were also on the agenda. The ambassador mentioned in particular two APPEAR projects on organic agriculture and tourism, adding that “the projects are very well received and we hope that it creates opportunities for youth and the young generation to look into the future with more confidence and hope”. Finally, he invited the audience to visit Armenia to experience its unique culture and cuisine. 

After being introduced by Gerhard Volz, ‘Youth Ambassador’ and APPEAR scholar Hasmik Hovakimyan began her presentation with some questions to the audience about Armenia. Following she embarked on her ‘virtual’ tour through Armenia, beginning with some historical background and geography. Showing pictures Hasmik introduced important locations and tourist sites in Armenia (Yerevan, Gyumri, Lake Sevan, Areni, Sisian, Goris, Meghri) also including culture and local cuisine. However, the tour also briefly touched upon the unfortunate war of 2020 in Artsakh. Finally, she also referred to some connections between Armenia and Austria. First, she highlighted Werfel’s outstanding book “The Forty Days of Musa Dagh”, as recommended reading, which tells the story of a family during the Armenian Genocide. Another important connection is the Armenian Mekhitarist Monastery in Vienna which houses many Armenian manuscripts, and also produces a famous liquor. 

Continuing the cultural journey to Armenia violinist Arevik Ivanyan, a student at University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, performed music by Armenian composer Komitas Vardapet. 

The next part of the Country Talk focused on cooperation in higher education with a presentation by OeAD EU Programme Officer Martina Friedrich on possibilities for cooperation within the Framework of ERASMUS+. 

Showcasing previous APPEAR cooperations between Armenia and Austria Milena Klimek provided some insights into the project Building Organic Agriculture in Armenia (BOAA). The main objective was “to co-create, implement and disseminate an organic master’s program …that was place-based and relevant”. This included extensive involvement of stakeholders in stakeholder committees and many focus group discussions. A lot of the exchanges and practical work was done outside the classroom, because students wanted to get their ‘hands dirty’. Sometimes the project was facing challenges such as rigid university regulations, but in the end and despite the relatively short time period, the project was a success.  A new follow up APPEAR project based on the results started in early 2022: Strengthening Organic Agriculture in Armenia: Participatory Higher Education and Knowledge Exchange for Development.

Finally, another APPEAR project related to Armenia, Transdisciplinarity for Sustainable Tourism Development in the Caucasus Region (CaucaSusT), was presented by Tamara Mitrofanenko. The project was not only focusing on Armenia alone but the broader Caucasus ecoregion. This ecoregion includes six countries and is a geopolitically challenging region. The main Armenian partners of CaucaSusT project, which tried to integrate interdisciplinary approaches in sustainable tourism development were the Armenian State Pedagogical University and Tiblisi State University. The core of the project was to co-develop a transdisciplinary case study course which was integrated into the curricula and to see how this approach is working in the Caucasus context. The aim was to include local stakeholders so that universities, students and teachers work together with local rural communities to help them develop sustainable tourism, which is very important for Armenia. To this end a teacher’s manual was developed which was translated into Armenian, to prepare teachers for more participatory methods. The students and teachers were very motivated to work together with local initiatives and the collaboration also continued after the finalization of the project, despite budgetary issues. For instance, a herbal tea production and a tea festival was created and is continuing. Also, many students attending the programme come from rural regions and are therefore bringing their knowledge back to their home regions. 

Following the informative presentations, the audience present at OeAD was invited to taste Armenian food and drinks for themselves and connect with each other, bringing the evening to a delicious end.

Country Talk Armenia is available on YouTube!