Honored vs People's Artist: Armenian cultural figures debate country's honorary titles
Abolition of honorary titles in Armenia
Armenian artists and cultural figures have been arguing for almost a week about the new initiative of the Ministry of Education. The agency proposes to only keep the titles of “Honored Art Worker of Armenia” and “Honored Worker of Culture”, and abolish the rest.
The new project does not imply that artists who have already received their titles will lose them. They just won’t be given to anyone else.
Many cultural figures consider these titles to be an outdated phenomenon, Soviet legacy creating unnecessary dependence of artists on the authorities. Others believes that titles are a form of encouragement, performance evaluation, they simply should not be distributed indiscriminately.
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“There are no objective criteria for measuring popularity”
The draft proposes to abolish the titles of “People’s Artist of Armenia”, “People’s Artist” and “Honored Artist”.
Artists awarded the title of People’s Artist of the Republic of Armenia receive 40,000 drams ($98) a month.
Only the titles of “Honored Artist” and “Honored Worker of Culture” will remain. According to the authors of the project, they may include the content of the titles that are eliminated, which will give them a higher status.
According to the rationale of the project, the popularity of an artist or cultural figure cannot be determined at the discretion of any expert group:
“There are no objective criteria for measuring popularity. The title “people’s” has a purely moral meaning, it reflects the popularity and public recognition of people, and cannot be approved by any body.
Deputy Minister of Education and Science Ara Khzmalyan believes, in parallel with the distribution of titles, problems arose, up to personal enmity. He is one of the initiators of this legislative change and believes that “competition has moved from the professional field to the field of titles and authorities.”
According to the author of the project, “professional nudity” was hidden behind these titles for years.
Ara Khzmalyan believes that the state should support the worthy in other ways, for example, by issuing grants or disseminating information about them, providing advertising.
The discussion of the draft law on the joint platform for the publication of legal initiatives e-draft.am, where everyone can leave their opinion about it, will continue until June 30.
According to Ruben Babayan, artistic director of the Yerevan Puppet Theater, this is a belated decision and, moreover, half-hearted, as it does not apply to all titles.
“Why cancel all the “people’s” titles and leave the “Honored Worker of the Republic of Armenia”? There is no logic, you have to be principled to the end”, he said.
According to Ruben Babayan, the distribution of titles to artists is a Soviet phenomenon, and is typical of despotic systems.
“It was very common in the Soviet Union, in Nazi Germany. It is no coincidence that the countries that subsequently chose the democratic path of development abandoned these titles”.
The head of the puppet theater believes that an artist should become famous for their work, and not for their title.
“Title is a tool in the hands of the authorities”
“Both in the USSR and in the post-Soviet period, the title was a tool in the hands of the authorities, it was used to keep artists in line, to subordinate them to their interests”, says composer Eduard Zorikyan.
He stressed that he himself does not have any titles, the work done is more important for him.
The composer notes that the artists who have been awarded titles feel indebted, they talk about meeting expectations, thereby “increasing the bars in the cage”.
“This means that they received the titles not for merit, but out of calculation of the provision of some services by them. Perhaps in the future the government will need these artists”, says Eduard Zorikyan, recalling the performances of artists during the election campaigns.
“The only advantage is a free place in the cemetery”
According to the honored worker of arts, famous jazz pianist Vahagn Hayrapetyan, the titles should be abolished. He believes that the title that was awarded to him depreciated when in Armenia they began to distribute it to anyone.
“I would advocate for the assertion of a national value or something like that. That is, I would like merit to be evaluated in some way when an artist is really of value, represents the country [at the appropriate level]. By the way, it doesn’t matter if you are in Armenia or abroad. And today, of course, our titles are ridiculous. The only advantage they give is a free place in the cemetery”, says the musician.
In case of abolition of honorary titles, the criteria for the formation of a government commission for the burial of artists will also be revised.