Sunday, May 13, 2012

Europe Day in Yerevan, Armenia

Last year I had the opportunity to attend the Passport DC and Europe Day "embassy open house" events held (now annually) in D.C. Unfortunately, I had to miss them this year as I am currently back in Armenia for a relatively short visit. I was very excited to find out, however, that Europe Day was going to be commemorated in Yerevan, as well. So I decided to spend the afternoon there, with a camera, documenting Europe's cultural diplomacy in an "Eastern Partner" country.

[Click on photos for larger view]

Although the venue chosen for the events was the newest, yet (arguably) the ugliest street in downtown Yerevan - Northern Avenue - and despite the gloomy weather, it was very nice to see some bright colors all around.

The program was quite diverse, and significantly different from that usually taking place in DC. Most of the exhibits - with some exceptions - focused not on showcasing the actual culture of various European countries, but rather on demonstrating and explaining the numerous initiatives and programs implemented in Armenia with EU funding and support.

Some of the attendees were clearly very inspired by European colors.

These programs range from educational reform initiatives and opportunities, to work on intellectual property rights...

... and to environmental protection.

Then, of course, there were certain exhibits and activities pertaining to culture itself.

Lithuanians showcased their crafts.

The French had a karaoke stand, featuring some of the greatest hits by Joe Dassin.

The Greeks offered some of their best cuisine.

And then, there were the Poles, who had a Folk Dance (and Song) Ensemble in town.

The Ensemble closed their performance with a special (as they put it) "surprise" for the Armenian audiences: a famous song by Komitas, one of the greatest Armenian musicians.

Quite impressive!

Other musical and dance performances followed, but I had to leave for some time. I returned towards the closing of the event, which featured Armenia's (perhaps) most popular DJ Vakcina who had teamed up with an interesting group of artists for the night.

Way to go in attracting a large and (mostly) young audience.

Overall, this was an impressive event. The central, open-air location ensured sufficient space to accommodate a potentially large volume of attendees. The various stands and exhibits were well-stocked with information and relevant literature. Better educating the public about all the different programs implemented in the country with the help of the EU was perhaps an even better approach to public diplomacy, as it made the event directly relevant to the public itself, as opposed to - for example - yet another showcase of by now well-known European "culture". That also demonstrated - better than anything - the applicability of "European values" to the local context.

Nonetheless, there was also a good balance between the educational and cultural aspects of EU public diplomacy throughout the event. I would estimate at least some 3000-4000+ (impressive for a small town like Yerevan) attendees at any given time, especially towards the end.

I hope this becomes an annual tradition, too!


  1. Are those the famous Greek "Turkish delights"? :-)

  2. Not Greek. *Cypriot*. Cyprus was the one to have patented the delights :);jsessionid=4EBF5A3C0B95D1A277D409B9A19D97A8?newsId=126498&columnistId=0

  3. Wow. The intellectual property extremists are already beginning to create a drag on the technology sector. They better not do the same thing to lokum.

  4. I wonder who will be the genius to patent the "Turkish/Greek/Cypriot/Arabic/Armenian, etc." coffee :)