About us

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The Padus-Araxes Cultural Association was founded as a non-profit and benevolent cultural association in 1987, one year after the first edition of the intensive summer course of Armenian language and culture, organized under the patronage of the Chair of Armenian Literature and Language of the University of Venice. The founders were Boghos Levon Zekiyan, Gabriella Uluhogian († 2016), Francesca Olivetti Manoukian and Chiara Hayganush Megighian. The Association name refers to the Latin denomination of two rivers, the Po and the Araxes, which symbolize respectively Italy and Armenia. This name intends to emphasize the strong cultural and social relations which have been mutually interlaced by Armenians and Italians throughout past centuries. The Association has its headquarters and office in Venice (Loggia del Temanza, Corte Zappa 1602). Its main goal is the preservation and development of the Armenian language and culture, notably Western Armenian, throughout the (co-)organization of summer intensive language programmes, international conferences, exhibitions, concerts, peer-reviewed publications, regular workshops on Armenian studies in Italy. Among these cultural activities, the most important is the Intensive Summer Course of Armenian Language and Culture which takes place in Venice, the cradle of the Armenian “Renaissance” in 18th century, from 1986. It has been organized by the Association in close collaboration with the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice from 1986 to 2015 and Centro Studium Marcianum from 2016. The Course takes place in August (three weeks of lessons) in the structure of the Studium Generale Marcianum in Venice. The summer programme offers language courses at four levels: beginners, elementary, intermediate and advanced. All courses are held in Armenian, except for the course of Armenian History, held in English.

Our Summer Course helps Armenian participants to develop the conscience of belonging to a common heritage and sharing a common destiny. Nevertheless, the Course does not concern only Armenian communities, but it also has had a fundamental role in preparing a new generation of European scholars in Armenian studies. Many eminent scholars attended our summer language programme: Giusto Traina (University of Paris-Sorbonne), Valentina Calzolari (University of Geneva, President of the International Association for Armenian Studies/Association Internationale des Etudes Arméniennes), Anna Sirinian (University of Bologna), Theo van Lint (University of Oxford), Andrea Schmidt (University of Leuven), Rachel Goshgarian (University La Fayette, New York), Aldo Ferrari (University Ca’ Foscari, Venice), Andrea Scala (University of Milan) and many others.
In recent years, since 2001, the Summer course has been attended also by ethnic Turks or Kurds who got in touch Armenian issues during their academic studies and started studying Armenian language and culture. After having prepared many scholars working in Europe, the Summer course will hopefully play a positive role in preparing future Armenian and non-Armenian scholars who live in Turkey to promote and develop Armenian studies by a critical and scientific approach.

The Summer course is inspired by the cultural ideals and pedagogical methods of Mkhitar Sebastatsi, Mekhitar of Sebaste, the founder of the Mekhitarist Congregation, where the founder and director of the Summer Course, H.G. Levon Zekiyan, received also his basic education and formation.

The Association published several monographs and issues every year the journal publication venue for Italian scholars or scholars living in Italy and working on topics related to the main fields of Armenian studies (Philology, Linguistics, Philosophy, History, Art & Architecture, Visual Arts, Politics).  Among the monographs published under the patronage of the Association there are “Hushamatean” and “Literature and Mythology”. The former is a volume edited by Salpi Kasbarian for the 20th anniversary of the Summer Intensive Course of Armenian Language in Venice (2005), collecting interviews with renowed scholars who attended the Course in past years and all the materials related to the previous editions of the Course.  The latter, edited by Marc Nichanian, collects several essays written by him and the students that attended his lessons on Armenian literature during 1987 course, on the literary production of Daniel Varujan, Hagop Oshagan, Kostan Zarian, and Yeghishe Charents.

The Association (co-)sponsored several cultural activities:
1) the Fifth International Symposium on Armenian Art (Milan, Vicenza, Venice, Bologna, Florence, 1988). Proceedings were published in 1992 (p. 862 + illustrations).
2) The interdisciplinary research programme with the collaboration of the Institute of History of Academy of Sciences of Armenia about the Armenian Presence in Italy from the Middle Ages till our days. The outcome was published in the volume “Ad Limina Italiae. Aŕ druns Italioy. In viaggio per l’Italia con mercanti e monaci armeni” (Padova, 1996).
3) the exhibition “Armenians in Italy” which took place in Venice and Padua between September 1990 and January 1991, organized by the Association Gaudium et Spes, under the High Patronage of the President of Italian Republic and sponsored, among others, by Regione Veneto.
4) the conference “Armenians on the roads of Italy” which took place in Turin, Genoa and Livorno from 8 to 11 March 1997.
5)  three international conferences during the Summer Course, respectively in 1990, 1995 and 2005 about questions regarding the use of the Armenian language in Armenia and in the Diaspora and on related topics, especially the Armenian Diasporan situation, relations between Armenia and Diaspora as well as other cultures and languages in the light of linguistic, anthropological, and sociological instances. These conferences have been widely dealt with in the above chapter dedicated to the Summer Intensive Course.
6)  INTAS (International Association for the promotion of co-operation with scientists from the New Independent States of the former Soviet Union) research programme of the European Union which led to an international conference on the topic: “Tiflis in the Nineteenth Century: History and Culture” in June 2003.
7) The workshop “Society, Religion, Thought, and Sciences in Armenia”, realized under the patronage of AIEA (Association Internationale des Etudes Arméniennes) within the project “Armenian Studies 2004”.
8) The constitution of a scientific section named “Padus-Araxes Armenistica”. This section aims to promote new cultural activities in the field of Armenian Studies, especially in Italy. The main goal of this section is to coordinate the activities of numerous specialists who are interested in Armenian Studies in Italy and promote research programmes. This section coordinates also the publications of two editorial series: the first with a philological trend (“Armeniaca Italica”, 4 volumes yet published) and the second with a historical and literary character (“Carte Armene”, 5 volumes published).
9) Annual and regular meetings of specialists in Armenian studies (since 1997) who lead their researches in Italy. The proceedings of those meetings are collected in the annual journal Rassegna degli Armenisti Italiani which is available on-line and in printed edition.
10) one-day meeting devoted to Caucasian and Armenian studies (from 2007 to 2015) which took place at the Department of Asian and African Mediterranean Studies of Venice Ca’ Foscari University in collaboration with ASIAC (Associazione per lo Studio in Italia dell’Asia Centrale e del Caucaso).

As regards the financial resources for the Summer Course, they are mainly covered by the tuition fees of the participants and occasional or regualar donations by  Alex and Marie Manoogian Foundation (U.S.A.), Stefano Serapian Foundation (Milan), Mr. and Mrs. Walter and Laurel Karabian (Los Angeles), Mrs. Anahit Drezian Ter-Minasian (Paris), Mr. and Mrs. Vazken and Vartuhi Pambakian (Milan), Mr. Garo Armen (New York), Mr. Vahé Gabrache (Genève), Fondazione Veneto Banca, Fondazione Silla Ghedina, Dikran Gülmezgil (Istanbul). These are our first benefactors. Subsequently other benevolent people joined in helping the Association. Their names are registered on the page of benefactors. Since the first year of the Course, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation provided grants and, these last years, offered its sponsorship to the Course.

Regular members of the Padus-Araxes Association contribute to the expenses concerning the section “Armenian Studies (Sezione Armenistica)” affiliated to the Association.