Regional Co-operation for Cultural Heritage Development
რეგიონალური თანამშრომლობა კულტურული მემკვიდრეობის განვითარებისათვის
Տարածաշրջանային համագործակցություն հանուն մշակութային ժառանգության զարգացման
Національна політика щодо культурної спадщини
Mədəni irsin inkişaf Etdimilməsi üçün regional əməkdaşlıq
Рэгіянальнае супрацоўніцтва ў мэтах развіцця культурнай спадчыны
E- Journal №2
Cultural Heritage Policy
Legislative Basis of the Cultural Heritage Protection in Armenia. The Necessity of Perfection

Gagik Gyurjyan

All of us, we have unique and diverse heritage: historical monuments, museums, archives, libraries, musical traditions, history and habits. Cultural heritage determines our peculiarities, emphasizing all the things that connect and separate us. Almost one decade ago we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Hague’s and European cultural conventions, which are the most important documents in cultural heritage preservation. So, it is already more than half a century that heritage preservation is not only moral duty, but also an international law. Our diligence and fidelity as heritage guards can be effective only in the solid legal framework.

Today we have the main common goal: to consider the cultural heritage as an impetus of the sustainable development and to think together about the problems and perspectives of heritage preservation in our countries. The legislative field of the protection of the tangible cultural heritage, the today’s reality in Armenia and the results of the latest decade studies will be represented in this context.

Armenia is proud of its historical and cultural heritage having its own place in the World heritage riches. In 1923 the Special Committee of Protection of Armenian Antiquities and Monuments has been founded under the special decree of Armenian Government and with the initiative of academician Al. Tamanyan. This Committee undertook the registration of the tangible values on the territory of Republic, pursuing to precise the content of domain and to begin comprehensive studies. The first list of Armenian landmarks including about 80 archaeological and architectural heritage sites was created at the end of 1920s. The continuing researches and the registrations led to the creation of the new state heritage list in 1930s. During the next period, due to the Second World War and the post-war difficulties, relatively modest steps had been made.

Armenian Government began to pay more attention to the protection, usage and restoration of the cultural heritage in the half of 1970s. The Board of Protection and Usage of Cultural Monuments at the Government of Armenia has been founded under the Government decision of 18 April, 1978. Later the basic problems and the directions of the activities were determined in this sphere. The most important problem, certainly, was the general inventorying and the documenting of the landmarks, as a result of which the Government of Soviet Armenia approved the State List of the Historical and Cultural landmarks in 1983. This list included 8 865 landmarks and till 2000 it was the most full document of the protected tangible heritage on the territory of Armenia.

The disintegration of the Soviet Union provoked great political and economic changes in Armenia. Despite this adverse context, the Government of independent Armenia clearly expressed a wish to elaborate the cultural policy proceeding from the national identity and, using the international experience, to upgrade the professional structures in the sphere of heritage protection, to join the international documents of the cultural heritage protection and to effectively implement their theses in the legislation of Republic of Armenia (RA). The protection of the environment, history, cultural monuments and other cultural values has been declared as state obligation by the RA Constitution. The improvement of the conditions of the protection, restoration and usage of the historical and tangible and intangible cultural heritage were recognized as the strategic direction of the cultural domain of Armenia.

Trying to have its own place in the field of protection of cultural heritage of humanity, Armenia ratified about ten international important conventions on the cultural heritage protection, among them:

  • Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict with Regulation for the Execution of the Convention /Hague,1954/
  • Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property /Paris, 1970/
  • Statement of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (BSEC) on Cooperation in Culture, Education, Science and Communication Technologies /Istanbul, 1993/
  • European Cultural Convention /Paris, 1954/
  • Main Contract about the Foundation of the CIS Cultural Cooperation Support Fund /Moscow, 1998/
  • Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage /Paris,1972/
  • Convention on the Biodiversity / Rio de Janeiro, 1992/
  • European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage / Valetta, 1992/
  • Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage /Paris, 2003/
  • European Landscape Convention / Florence, 2000/
  • Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe /Grenada , 1985/

Actually the Agency of Protection of Historical and Cultural Monuments of the Ministry of Culture RA controls the protection of tangible heritage. This Agency is a structure organized as a result of the reformation of the cultural sphere and it is the inheritor of the Board of Protection and Usage of Cultural Monuments founded during the soviet period by the Government.

The main document regulating the tangible cultural heritage sphere in RA is the “Law of Protection and Usage of Historical and Cultural Tangible Heritage and Historical Environment” approved by the National Assembly in 1998, later enriched with many other laws and rules. In comparison with previous law adopted in 1978, considering the contemporary political and social-economic reality, the new law regulates in more details the rights of historical and cultural landmarks, the questions of owners of landmarks and its territories. On the bases of the above noted Law the “Rules of Inventorying, Study, Protection, Consolidation, Repair, Restoration and Usage of Historical and Cultural Tangible Monuments” as well as the corresponding paragraphs of the “Law of Bases of the Cultural Legislation” has been elaborated and submitted for approval of the Government of RA in 2002. The “Law about Historical and Cultural Tangible Monuments, Recognized State Property and Not Subject to Alienation” accepted by National Assembly in 2003 is also the result of the improvement of the legislation in the heritage protection field. The Civil, Criminal and Administrative Codes of Armenia, the laws of State Territorial Governance and Local Governance also include the articles concerning cultural and natural heritage protection.

The draft “Law about Archaeological Heritage Studies and Excavations” with the main definition of the domain, aimed to regulate the problems of archaeological heritage studies and excavations, to define the physical and legal entities, authorized body’s rights and responsibilities, has been elaborated and submitted for Government approval. Nevertheless it was considered inexpedient and was withdrawn; meanwhile it was a step towards improving the legislative field and was engendered from the necessity of protection of the rich archaeological heritage.

Beside the legislative base, the protection of the monuments and sites is based on Venice Charter which is the most representative document of international principles of protection. ICOMOS/Armenia has been founded in 2001. It serves for heritage protection with relevant authorities and other NGOs of Armenia. This is the reason that most of the famous specialists in the sphere join up ICOMOS/Armenia.

The protection of cultural heritage is a national obligation in all countries and now the question how to treat the monuments and their environment is of interest for Armenia, where economic development challenges this sphere. Many examples can prove the advance in monuments and sites legislative and methodical protection. Nevertheless we have no such cases for their practical protection in the context of cultural tourism development. Could the cultural tourism be able to serve as the stimulant for heritage protection of Armenia?

All the preconditions and real opportunities exist in many Armenian regions for the development of eco-tourism, agro-tourism and cultural tourism, that can be possible by the improvement of landscapes, monuments and sites, and the promotion of outdoor leisure.

It is clearly notified by International Cultural Tourism Charter that “Tourism can capture the economic characteristics of the heritage and use these for conservation by generating the new resources, promoting the education and influencing policy. The tourism is an essential source of many national and regional economies and can be an important factor in development, when managed successfully”.

In this context, it is proper to present a data of a survey held in a recent decade in the regions of Armenia on the theme “Cultural Heritage, Tourism, Resources and Dangers’’.

Tourism is declared as one of the economic development priorities by Armenian Government. In the state programme ‘’Tourism Development in Republic of Armenia ‘’ approved by the Government of RA, the development of tourism diversity is highlighted as the stimulant of economic development. Moreover, the sphere of tourism is accepted as the promotional factor of economic development especially in the villages and highland settlements. If we take into consideration the deteriorated tourism network inherited from Soviet times and its destroyed structure, as well as the change of criteria foreseeing tourists stream, it becomes clear that the system should be re-founded.

“Centro di Studi e di Documentazione della Cultura Armena” of Milan, funded by World Bank, sponsored by Italian Culture and Sustainable Development Fund, and supported by Ministry of Culture, RA surveyed the results of study of foreigners’ interests concerning Armenian tourist sites. This is aimed to generate those specialties and services of tourism in Armenia the reforms of which will make the tourism in cultural sites more attractive. At the same time the fast and uncontrolled tourism danger was analysed. The survey was also aimed to find out the Armenians level of highlighting the protection of cultural heritage sites. Interviews were held with the tourist agencies in Armenia and Europe, with foreigners in the streets, as well as with possible tourists in Italy, France and Spain. The surveys showed that Armenia attracts the tourists for its unique cultural monuments and landscapes. Although the air traffic high prices still keep many individuals from visiting Armenia, our country could face the over-abusing danger of cultural and natural resources. Armenian people neither are familiar with the traffic jam caused by traffic and human accumulation, nor with the danger of tourism development. One of the interesting facts is that both visitors and possible visitors give great importance to the protection of cultural heritage. They believe that the monuments protection state defines the quality of a visit to Armenia and even the wish to go there again. Moreover, most people are ready to give financial donation for the monuments protection. The survey states that we need maximum efforts to provide supervision over steps of tourism development, cultural and archaeological heritage protection. Unlike other places in the world, where archaeological monuments are accumulated in urban areas, in Armenia the high per cent of monuments are centred at countryside. According to the principles of International Cultural Tourism Charter that “Tourism and conservation activities should benefit the host community”, the programme performers carried out the case study of ‘’The management and social-economic restoration of Armenian countryside and cultural heritage’’ which aimed to reveal the opportunities of creating new income resources and working places at countryside using local cultural resources. A pilot programme was implemented in Tatev village with 1200 inhabitants where cultural heritage can play a great role for beneficial activities in the village. According to our data the village had 17000 visitors in 2000-2001. As a result of a consistent support, 3 motels and a restaurant were opened in the village. This shows that the main efforts directed to the social, technical, infrastructural and management problems bring the visible results.

For creating a sustainable tourism at the countryside, Caro-Cataneo University of Italy with the leadership of Prof. Dipak Pant carried out an examination in 3 villages (Vahramaberd-Marmashen-Kaps) of Shirak in close collaboration with Protection Agency of Monuments and Sites, RA and Shirak regional administration, in summer of 2006. These 3 villages in proximity of the city of Gyumri are famous for their remarkable monuments and sites such as Marmashen monastery and picturesque landscapes. The area will have the economic development opportunities if it is cleaned, trees and shrubs are planted and developed as eco-cultural and rural tourist zone. As well as Yerevan, historically Gyumri is an important city from the cultural and economic point of view. It will be difficult to develop the mass tourism here because of severe winter climate and poor infrastructure. Therefore the examination prove that various types of tourism focused on nature and culture, such as outdoor leisure, culture visits, training, exporation of cultural monuments, flavour of rural life, local production and crafts can be source of beneficial income.

The formation of cultural-cognitive tourism system in Armenia is highly estimated in the process of development and restoration of mountainous and highland settlements. Even the creation of few working places is a way to prevent the population’s unprecedented migration. Recently a young researcher from the University of Architecture and Construction conducted an relevant case study in RA regions, like Syunik case. He drew conclusion that tourism can provide a work to 10 per cent of able-bodied population, and provide about 750000 USD to the state budget from the tourism. Finally, by developing and expanding network of tourist routes we can form architectural, landscape, esthetical and functional structure i.e. the environment we live in.

“Tourism promotion programmes should protect and enhance Natural and Cultural Heritage characteristics”, that is the last but at the same time the priority principle of the International Cultural Tourism Charter. Whenever possible, we should avoid the threatening obligations for monuments, actual needs should not prevent the future generations’ needs. It is a fact that the management of monuments, sites, urban complexes and landscapes demands some approaches colliding with the owner’s interests. In most cases it lead to the social-economic modifications damaging the tangible monuments, which we come across frequently in our country. The social and economic obligations often lead to the modifications with serious consequences for monuments, sites and large territories bounding them, such as urban and rural settlements, even nature including changeable landscapes which are considered to be cultural routes. The reconstruction of places abandoned and suffered from natural disaster is a point of special interest and increasing concern. Urgency often demands to ignore the cultural traditions in favour of new technologies. This, once more, underlines that we have to refuse to follow some principles.

Notwithstanding the challenges of our profession, the protection of monuments and sites is a common concern and demands the elaboration of new measures and cooperation.

We hope, that the “Regional Cooperation for Cultural Heritage Development” funded by EU will become the real cooperation platform for monuments sustainable protection, will contribute to the balanced and harmonious protection of monuments and sites, and also to the problems revealing and the experience exchange in this domain.

Amberd Castle, 10th c.
Amberd Castle, 10th c.
Vhanavank monastery, 10-11th cc.
Hlidzor, 17-18th cc.
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