chief editor says encyclopedias never lose
Thirteen volumes of the Armenian Soviet Encyclopedia
are carefully leaned against each other in the
bookcase of Hovhannes Aivazyan's workroom. Next
to the older ones are volumes published within
the past decade.
They are evidence of a man who has a special
regard for the collection of facts and figures.
"Encyclopedias are not like newspapers and
magazines, they cannot go out of date and people
cannot say that they don't need them anymore,"
Aivazyan says. "Each encyclopedia never loses
its value regardless of when it was published."
Since 1988, Aivazyan has been chief editor and
director of the "Armenian Encyclopedia"
publishing house. He talks about encyclopedic
works with love and enthusiasm.
"It is a hard work. You are responsible
for every fact, dates, every name. We check the
facts by all possible means as we have no right
for making mistakes. It is a work that requires
a lot of time."
Efforts to create an Armenian Encyclopedia began
in 1967 under president of the National Academy
of Sciences Viktor Hambardzumyan.
The founder's nephew, philologist and philosopher
Suren Hambardzumyan, continues his uncle's passion
for recording a nation. He works at a table heavy
with thick encyclopedias and dictionaries and
speaks without stopping his work.
"When Viktor Hambardzumyan was employing
us he said: 'The encyclopedia is the face of a
nation.' In some sense it was also manifestation
of statehood those years."
In 1974 the first volume of Armenian Soviet Encyclopedia
was published. Over the next 14 years 12 volumes
"You cannot create an encyclopedia within
one year even if your desire to do that is very
strong," Aivazyan says. "Each one requires
the work of five or six years."
The years of independence have not slowed the
work, but Aivazyan complains that demand for the
books has lessened.
"Hard social conditions make people think
of different problems," the editor says.
"During Soviet times big bookstore chains
were functioning but today there are regions where
one can hardly find even one bookstore. People
don't keep bookstores because they think it is
not a profitable business. If we were guided by
this mentality from the years of Mashtots until
these days then we wouldn't even have an alphabet."
Last year the fourth volume of the Armenian Shorter
Encyclopedia was issued in an edition of 3,000
copies. Only about 600 copies have sold. By comparison,
Aivazyan says that during Soviet times such books
were issued 100,000 copies at a time and sold
"In other countries the book publishing
business is one of the most profitable fields
but in Armenia today it is dying," Aivazyan
The Armenian Encyclopedia employs about 70 workers,
including five scientific editorial branches.
Much of the work is supported by a 20 million
dram (about $35,000) State allotment, which covers
salaries and publication costs for one annual
This year AE expects to publish "Karabakh
War 1988-1994" and "Armenian Diaspora",
chronicling Armenian communities in 68 countries,
plus "We Armenians", with profiles of
famous Armenians from pagan to modern times.