(August 7th – August 25th, 2022)
The 36th edition of the Intensive Summer Course of Armenian Language and Culture, organized in Venice by the Cultural Association “Padus-Araxes”, in collaboration with the Studium Generale Marcianum Foundation, took place from August 7th to August 25th. This year 31 participants, 9 teachers and 1 extracurricular lecturer gathered in Venice from 14 different countries to join the course founded and directed by Fr. Prof. Boghos Levon Zekiyan, President of the “Padus-Araxes” Association. He was assisted by Dr. Benedetta Contin, Vice-President of Padus-Araxes and Vice-Director of the course, and by a secretariat of five collaborators.
The lessons took place in the historic palace of the Patriarchal Seminary of Venice, adjacent to the monumental Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. Accomodations for students and teachers was provided in two residences. The teaching staff included: Artsvi Bakhchinyan (Armenia), Benedetta Contin (Italy/Austria), Tork Dalalyan (Armenia), Avedis Hadjian (Italy), Aram Ipekdjian (Italy/Austria), Tamar Mangassarian (Turkey), Raffi Setian (USA), Sossi Soussanian (Hungary), Rosine Tachdjian (France).
The Padus-Araxes cultural Association aims both to teach the Armenian language, with a special care for its Western variant, and to give a strong contribution to preserve the historical heritage of Armenian culture. The Association also aims to promote a concrete experience of the unique Armenian identity, bringing together Armenians and non-Armenians, who are interested in deepening their knowledge of Armenian language and culture, from all over the world to Venice, one of the most important and symbolic places within Armenian Diaspora.
The programme is made up of four levels, the first one addressed to absolute beginners and the fourth, to both mother-tongue and proficient speakers including teachers of the Armenian language. The programme has successfully continued for 36 years during which nearly one thousand five hundred people, from 36 countries, took part in the course. The curricular activity consists of thirty hours of classroom teaching per week, divided into five hours a day, from Monday to Saturday, for a whole of thirteen teaching days. Six hours weekly are dedicated to introducing Armenian history to the first three levels and are given in English by Raffi Setian. Except for the lessons on Armenian history, the whole programme, also on the first level is conducted in Armenian. At the most advanced level, the scheduled programme includes lessons on modern Armenian literature, Armenian history, arts and cinema, history and methodology of the Armenian language, phonology of Western and Eastern Armenian, and classical Armenian.
The superior level of the Course is organized to offer a wider horizon on Armenian culture and history, both classical and modern. In the immediate future, the Padus-Araxes Association intends to provide the fourth level with classes developed on an overall triennial programme that is meant to strengthen and deepen the knowledge of Armenian language and culture from a methodological, linguistic, literary and artistic point of view. The superior level is therefore intended for preparing future teachers and helping teachers already in charge to improve their knowledge and skills.
The programme has been joined this year by 31 participant students, from 14 countries (Armenia, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Mexico, Romania, Switzerland, Turkey, USA, Germany and Italy). Among the participants there was a significant number of graduate and post-graduate students, the other part being people of different ages, among whom also several professionals, teachers and academics.
This year also some participants were awarded scholarships and grants from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (which every year donates scholarships to participants in the Course and ensures the Course permanent assistance), the Surp Hagop Foundation of the Armenian Catholic Community of Istanbul, and the Zekian family (Antranik and Florence Zekian).
On the 11th and 12th of August two guest lectures were given by Prof. Valentina Calzolari of Genève, President of the AIEA (Association Internationale des Etudes Arméniennes) on Aurora Mardiganian, a young survivor of the Genocide, and the large echo that her tragic adventure raised in the American media and public opinion. The original version of the film on Aurora was also shown. Two other film screenings: “Maro’s secret” and two short films by Silvina Der-Mgrdchian in the frame of the “Housahamadyan” project, were presented by Prof. Artsvi Bakhchinyan who every year takes care to present and comment recent Armenian films at the Course. On the 16th of August, Dr. Benedetta Contin (University of Vienna, Vice-Director of the Summer Course) spoke about the Armenian attitude towards history and sense of belonging through the lenses of Armenian early medieval historiography (“Past as a Mirror to the Present: Sense of History, Sense of Belonging and Identity in the Armenian Experience”).
On August 22nd a special event took place, organized by the Course Direction in the most renowned hotel in Venice, the Danieli Palace, which celebrates this year two centuries of its foundation. The Danieli Palace also had in the past some Armenian connection with both the famous Surian and Shehrimanian families which for some periods used it. A concert of duduk was given there, accompanied by dhol and by the Medieval Western instrument, the salterio. Duduk was played by Maestro Aram Ipekdjian, dhol by Burak Mesropian, and salterio by Alessandro Ferrarese. The two latter musicians arrived in Venice from Vienna and Ferrara for the concert. The concert was attended both by the students of the course and by lovers of music, especially of Armenian duduk. The Course Direction wants to express its sincere gratitude to Mr Gregory Mamassian for his generous contribution to organize the concert.
On Our Lady’s Assumption Sunday all participants attended the Holy Mass celebrated on the Island of San Lazzaro, the Headquarters of the Mekhitarist Congregation, while on Sunday 21st August a Holy Mass was celebrated by His Grace Levon Archb. Zekiyan in the church of San Salvador, one of the most beautiful Renaissance churches in Venice, where the tomb of the Venetian princess Caterina Cornaro (1454-1510) is kept with the inscription mentioning her title of “Queen of Armenia”, the last mention of a royal title for Armenia. Caterina, married to a Lusignano prince, bore among her titles also that of “Queen of Armenia” referring to Cilician Armenia. Besides the students and teachers of the Course, there was great participation, both at San Lazzaro and San Salvador, in the Holy Liturgy which was sung by a choir of professional and non-professional singers among whom our teachers, Rosine Tachdjian and Artsvi Bakhchinyan, and other Course participants.
The participants had also the opportunity to join a guided visit to the Mekhitarist Monastery and Museum of St. Lazzaro under the guidance of Fr. Levon Zekiyan and Raffi Setian. The participants had also the possibility to join extra-curricular lessons of Armenian traditional dance, conducted by Artsvi Bakhchinyan, and duduk, conducted by Aram Ipekdjian. These lessons were given alternatively thrice a week and raised a lot of interest and enthusiasm as far as the participants performed their acquired abilities during the evening parties, organized once a week by the staff of the Course. These gatherings were another opportunity to strengthen friendship/mutual knowledge between the participants and to create an informal environment for developing conversation in Armenian.
From mid-December 2022, the secretary of the Padus-Araxes Association will send the certificate to all the participants who successfully passed the exam instead, those who had not passed the exam will receive a certificate of attendance.
Applications for next year’s course will be accepted starting from Fall 2022.
SECRETARIAT OF PADUS-ARAXES ASSOCIATION
Venice, 2nd of September, 2022