|:: Armenian Program|
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The Armenian Studies Program at UCLA focuses on the 3,000-year history and culture of the Armenian people, both in their native homeland between the Mediterranean, Black, and Caspian sea, and in the dispersion. Unique in the context of Near Eastern civilizations, the Armenians maintained their Indo-European language and developed a distinct Christian culture that drew inspiration from and served as a link between the Orient and the Occident.
The Armenian Studies Program at UCLA is one of the earliest in the United States. Armenian studies flourished in Europe during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries but waned after the great dispersal of the Armenian people in 1915. A revival began in the United States in the mid 1950s as interest grew in Near Eastern Studies and as the Armenian-American community initiated steps for the establishment of endowed chairs of Armenian Studies, first at Harvard and then at UCLA.
Thanks to the vision of the Near Eastern Center's first director, the late Gustave von Grunebaum, and the enthusiastic support of then Chancellor Franklin D. Murphy and Dean Paul Dodd, undergraduate instruction in Armenian language and history began in 1960 only three years after the the establishment of Near Eastern Center. During the first two years, courses were offered by visiting faculty, Kevork Sarafian, A.O. Sarkissian, and Louise Nalbandian. In 1962, Richard G. Hovannisian joined the Department of History and introduced several new courses while also teaching at Mount Saint Mary's College. At this time, Dr. K.M. Khantamour, a dentist with a love for Armenian books and scholarly study, donated more than 1,000 volumes to UCLA, laying the foundation for the extraordinary collection of Armenian materials now housed in the University Research Library.
From these modest beginnings, the Armenian program at UCLA has grown to become the largest and most comprehensive in the country from the point of view of course offerings, degree programs, and enrollments. The program is now anchored in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures and in the Department of History, with an endowed tenured position in each.
Avedis Sanjian joined the NELC Department in 1965 after eight years at Harvard. In 1969, as the result of a campaign initiated by the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research, he became the first occupant of the endowed Grigor Narekatsi Chair in Armenian Language and Literature. Among his publications are The Armenian Communities in Syria under Ottoman Dominion (1965), Colophons of Armenian Manuscripts 1301-1480 (1969), A Catalogue of Medieval Armenian Manuscripts in the United States (1976), and a volume in Armenian devoted to the life and letters of Vahan Tekeyan, noted twentieth-century poet and civic figure, for which he received Haigashen Ouzounian Literary Prize in 1984. Sanjian was chairman of the NELC Department (1970-74) and served on two Armenian school boards. He also edited the Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies.
Gia Aivazian is librarian for Armenian and Greek materials. She has been responsible for cataloging Armenian books at UCLA since1967. She has been a frequent consultant to libraries and patrons across the country. Among her publications is "Problems in Armenian Collection Development and Technical Processings in United States Libraries" (1981). She is engaged in a long-term compilation of a Union Catalog of Armenian materials. In addition to her degree in library science, Aivazian is a Ph.D. candidate in Armenian Literature. Her dissertation subject is "Pagan Armenia in Modern Armenian Literature."