- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 January 23 , 2004 

Getting the Word Out: Scientists devoted to fact chronicle Armenia to dwindling audience

The chief editor says encyclopedias never lose their value.

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"Encyclopedias are not like newspapers and magazines, they cannot go out of date and people cannot say that they don't need them anymore," Aivazyan says.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 were published.

"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 quickly.

"In other countries the book publishing business is one of the most profitable fields but in Armenia today it is dying," Aivazyan says.

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 volume.

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.

According to Agnes
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Dancing on Strings

The recently renovated Opera House hosted a ballet performance based on Aram Khachatryan's "Concert for Violin" last weekend. It was the first time the piece has been accompanied by dance.




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