Politics without Politics: Public Education, Ethnicity, Nationalism

By the order of the Minister of Education and Science Levon Mkrtchyan it was approved the pilot project on the subject “National Song and Dance” in the 7th grade of a public primary school. Accordingly, in the schools which implement the program “National Song and Dance” subject are allocated 1.5 hours weekly, annual hours are allocated to 51 hours, which the school may provide to the school component or the hours of the subject “Physical training”.

A few days ago the Ministry of Education and Science announced1about that on his official website. At first glance, this innocent and meaningless statement is a result of the policy that has been implemented by the government in general education for many years. According to that decision, the hours for the subject “National Song and Dance” are anticipated to realize at the expense of the classes of the subject “Physical Training”. Most probably Ministry’s relevant departments and those who are responsible for them, by the head of Minister Levon Mkrtchyan, have found that the physical training of students has less value than the “National Song and Dance” course, which up to 2 years, during 2014 and 2015 and even now (but in a different scale), has been introduced as a pilot project in some public schools and implemented in 5-7 grades respectively. First, a few preliminary observations on the issue:

  1. The first and noteworthy fact that we can state for us, is the institutionalization of nationalism through the general education. And, the most important to emphasize is that it is “harmless” and at the same time is a direct tool to influence students. It is important to understand how much they will be able to approach to the problem critically, think about these changes and their impact, their value for themselves and, most importantly, have a right of choice: learn the “National songs and dances”, or simply maintain their “Physical training” subject lessons.
  2. The other issue: the formulation of “National”, according to which supposedly the priority is given to the ethnic component of a citizen and culture. In general, the emphasis of ethnic nationalism and ethnicity are not new to Armenian reality and are not unusual2. But it is one thing to keep it within the cultural field, and another to realize it in educational field. As much Republic of Armenia is a mono-ethnic and unitary state, as no one has abolished the system of the citizenship, as a result, public education is not only for ethnic Armenians but also for the other nationalities who are citizens of the RA, regardless of their ethnic affiliation. From this point of view, these all are the most real and most basic discriminations against the other nations who are considered citizens of the RA.
  3. The other part of the issue is the professionalism of those engaged in the training course and its effectiveness for students. The statement notes that this pilot program is headed and directed by the ensemble “Karin” and its director Gagik Ginosyan. It should be mentioned only the absurd template “Armenian gene” used by him, and calmly to say, other issues are worthy of discussion and criticism.
  4. The other important issues are as well as the public demand of the introduction of the subject in public education, its scientific rationale, the availability of the necessary human, scientific and material potentials (this program priory should be introduced in 113 schools, and in general there are 1389 schools in the RA) and other issues, which are still unsolved and are in need of identification and consensual solution.
  5. There are no specialists of national song and dance with higher education in the Republic of Armenia. In fact, a subject was included in a school for which there is no higher education base in Armenia. The Ministry of Education and Science, because of the shortage of funds, decided to train the teachers of song and physical training, which talks about the lack of professionalism and systemic failures by which the program enters 113 general schools.

Generally, this message which is spread by the Ministry of Education and Science before the new academic year is not devoid of pathos and in my opinion, is mostly aimed at strengthening and further than developing ideological positions of nationalism in the state and society, which, in my opinion, are mostly dissociative, separatist and realities that contain shades of focusing on originality. Nationalism itself can be viewed as a neutral category if it does not start to acquire dissociative basis and hold divisions within the community and the outside world. The most important is also the national, particularly tangible breath by the spirit of ethnicity of the elitism of the inner public, which is quite dangerous for the country and the state, because it is hard manageable and it creates manipulative field for opportunists and populists.

Without any hesitation, we can add to this series of nationalist propaganda the opening of the clubs “Young Yerkrapah” in schools in the recent past, which object is also the national education of new generations and the “honor” desire3is to raise them in national spirit, which is nothing but the embryonic militarization of the state and society. The other component of this series can be considered the teaching of religion, mainly the teaching of Armenian Apostolic Church religion in schools, in the case when the RA is declared as a secular country and that is not new and is common for post-Soviet countries and Eastern European countries adjacent to the Soviet camp.
But the key point in all these is not as much the contribution of the dance as its implementation and implementers, stakeholders, the long-term objectives, which is also important, and of course, also the directed and deliberate state policy of ethnic nationalist, its objectives and stakeholders.

Thus, we can state that, public education which is a sensitive and priority sector is considered as a guarantee of the state and public security interests and is “surrounded by” nationalist populism network-religion, military training and sing and dance (“innocent subjects”) systematic attack.

In my opinion, the current situation either in the nature of power or by the position of its implementation and operation somewhat resembles the early fascistic Italy’s domestic policy (its condition can be considered as a miserable and even too unhappy duplicate of domestic politics of early fascism). If we look closely at early fascism, especially adjacent to the period of the alliance of Mussolini and the Catholic Church4, we will see that the church began to sanctify Fascism, its institutions and the power system and its whole system completely, getting from the government huge dividends for strengthening its positions, restoring the damaged reputation and for development and dissemination of its influence. The second and the most important similarity was the totalitarian nature of Fascist Party, which totalitarian nature, according to Gramsci’s words, was that it substituted the role of political institutions on its own by the total control of the party5.

From here we can pass to the other important issue when under the total control of the political institutions the policy is excluded itself, because policy van exist between equal or at least approximately equivalent power, and in all other cases we deal with the dominant-submissive primary relationship’s social practices in the country boundaries, where the power of his own initiative, attempts to present quasi political struggle as a natural process of life. So starting with this key point, we will see further connection to our current government’s domestic policy’s sensitive point which is the innovation of the public sector.

As we start with the belief that the ruling party has total or almost total power in the country we should emphasize one important thesis in a red line for us: if a party is able to establish total control over the country, especially in the system of state power and government institutions, thus the party cannot carry pure political functions because of above mentioned reasons, and it performs the other primarily technical functions- administrative, police, propaganda, moral and cultural.

In this case, when political life ceases to be realized as such, political speech is replaced by jargon, and in inner life the stress is laid on cultural and moral spheres, the basis of which is public education, and the instrument is the mass media. Hence the next issue, according to which, the lack of the political freedom leads to “acculturalization” and “moralization” of political problems which is a direct result of cultural styling of political problems and, therefore, more than deliberately the archaization and legendation and, accordingly, they become insoluble, and are based on their merits. As a result political problems are blurred, rational political thought gives way to a fabulous idea with its archaic engrossing nature, and the public is deprived of the tools of a sensibility, common sense, return to Pre-Enlightenment period, to the field of uninterrupted and cycle measurements of good and evil. This is the direct result of the deep political crisis in the state educational policy, which is carried on public education, which takes significant and serious risks so for the country and as for the state and the government, because sooner or later it may become the captive of its own dual ideology and mythical reality, constantly keeping active the created myth-archaic system of the power and being deprived of inner potential6.


  1. Нации и национализм / Б. Андерсон, О. Бауэр, М. Хрох и др; Пер с англ. H 28 и нем. Л. Е. Переяславцевой, М. С. Панина, М. Б. Гнедовского — М.: Праксис, 2002., стр. 201-236.
  2. Грамши А. Избранные произведения, Т3.стр 194.
  3. http://www.edu.am/index.php?id=8291&topMenu=-1&menu1=-2&menu2=-1 8․30․2016․
  4. http://www.gumer.info/bibliotek_Buks/Culture/Eko/_05.php 8/31/2016.
  5. http://www.epress.am/ru/2016/08/30/%D0%B2-%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%BC%D1%8F%D0%BD%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D1%85-%D1%88%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B0%D1%85-%D0%B7%D0%B0%D0%B1%D0%B8%D0%B2%D0%B0%D1%8E%D1%82-%D0%B3%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B2%D1%83-%D1%87%D0%B5.html 8/31/2016.

2 The essential and marginal dimension of ethnic nationalism and political nationalism is the nation’s measurement as ethnic or a unit of politics. Since Western European Enlightenment movement in Western civilization political dimension of the nation has been largely dominated the nation as a political unit, of course, not excluding and not separating the cultural side, but first of all paying a tribute to the political base of nation’s measurement. The activation of nationalism’s ethnic component and the foreground impulse may lead to the formation of impotent political regime which is especially beneficial to our neighbors and quasi allies, because currently ethnic nationalism is aimed and solve not political problems.

3 As an example we can remember the common Ludi Juveniles groups in fascist Italy, which were intended for Italian young students- fascists and which were likewise “patriotic” in their nature and were tended to prepare the future “martyrs of idea”.

4 First of all due to concordat of Lateran Fascist Italy and the Papal Kuria mutually recognized each other’s sovereignty and started the area of mutual legitimization, which was more important for the discussion of that given case.

5 Грамши, Избраннъе произбедения, Т3, стр. 194. It is important to emphasize that no matter how totalitarian the government is considered, it cannot completely fulfill its function in a stable manner, because it will just drop the system, according to which the absolute totalitarianism implies end of everything in terms of political meaning and just economic, political and cultural inexistence in terms of functionalism.Modern theorist of nationalism, an English professor John broiler notes that the purpose of political nationalism is natural to coordinate, mobilize and legitimize aspirations of nationalists to come to power. According to him, the political principle emerges as a contrary to the state authorities and occurs at the time when it is clear the separation between the public and the authorities. Due to this, the nationalists may squeeze all the not political resources from the society in order to serve them to the interests of the political opposition.

6 Modern theorist of nationalism, an English professor John broiler notes that the purpose of political nationalism is natural to coordinate, mobilize and legitimize aspirations of nationalists to come to power. According to him, the political principle emerges as a contrary to the state authorities and occurs at the time when it is clear the separation between the public and the authorities. Due to this, the nationalists may squeeze all the not political resources from the society in order to serve them to the interests of the political opposition.

Author: Gor Madoyan. © All rights are reserved.
Tranlsator: Syuzanna Mkrtichyan.