From Post-Soviet Studies to Armenianology

Article excerpt

Abstract: Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, numerous studies on its former republics have been published. Armenia is no exception. In this article, I analyze the development of literature and published material on Armenia studies. Although this article does not encompass all of the literature published on Armenia, it should serve as a reference point for scholars who are interested in Armenia or want to use Armenia as a case study in their research.

Key words: area studies, Armenian studies, Sovietology

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This article is an attempt to map the field of Armenian studies and studies on Armenia following the collapse of the Soviet Union. To manage this task, I trace the developments the literature on post-Soviet independent Armenia has undergone through a mix of reviewing and analyzing published material from the field of Armenian studies. Although this exercise might have loopholes and may not be inclusive, it should serve as a stepping stone for scholars wishing to venture into the field of Armenian studies or utilize Armenia as a case study for research in their respective disciplines.

Armenian Studies or Armenianology?

Labeling the studies conducted on modern Armenia can be accomplished by utilizing techniques used to define the field studying the Soviet Union. Beginning in the mid-1960s and continuing well into the early 1980s, a great number of texts attempted to address the conceptual/methodological difference between "Soviet studies" and "Sovietology." (1) Ironically, it was the end of the subject of the study--the Soviet Union--that made it possible to develop finite parameters of what was meant by these two terms. Aryeh L. Unger made one of the clearest distinctions in an article published in 1998:

   Sovietology concerns first and foremost the study of Soviet politics
   thus making it a field or sub-discipline of political science. While
   not the exclusive preserve of political scientists, specialists from
   other disciplines--history, economics, sociology, law, among others
   --may be considered as practicing Sovietology to the extent that
   their work touches on aspects of politics. (2)

He continued:

   "Soviet Studies" suggests itself as an obvious candidate for the
   generic term designating studies in the humanities and social
   sciences that have the Soviet Union as their object, leaving
   "Sovietology" as the specific term designating the study of
   Soviet politics. (3)

Furthermore, by looking into the classic definitions of area studies' goals, one observes four main trends: (1) providing knowledge of practical value about important world areas, (2) providing students and scholars with awareness of cultural relativity, (3) presenting an understanding of social and cultural entities as they exist in areas, and (4) furthering the development of a universal social science. (4)

Based on these classifications and the distinction between "ologies" and area studies, it might be possible to operationalize the concepts of Armenian studies and Armenianology, as well as include the various publications dealing with post-Soviet Armenia under one or both of the two categories. The problem of Armenian studies, however, is that its lack of structure prohibits a multidisciplinary approach utilizing the various social sciences and language instructions, supplemented with strong supporting courses in history, government, or religion. (5) Instead, those scholars dealing with Armenian issues have chosen to observe and analyze problems from the prism of a single discipline, pigeonholing their concerns and thus rendering the field as Armenianology rather than Armenian studies.

This phenomenon is peculiar considering that there are more than a dozen chairs of Armenian studies outside of Armenia scattered all over the United States and the world, and it is expected that these chairs promote the development of robust Armenian studies programs. …