HALLE-WITTENBERG, Germany — It is a unique institution in the country, the only center specializing in Armenian studies, Armenology. When the Mesrop Arbeitsstelle für Armenische Studien (Mesrop Center for Armenian Studies) at the Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg observed its 20th anniversary on October 18-19, it celebrated the special role it has played in bringing knowledge of the Armenian language, literature, culture and history to not only academic circles but also the broader public. Much has been achieved, and the potential for development is even greater.
Since the Bundestag (Parliament) passed a resolution in June 2016 recognizing the Armenian genocide, interest in Armenia has expanded immensely. For many Germans that political act opened the door to discovery of a hitherto unknown people and their culture. Several new studies, especially of the history of the genocide, have appeared and been well received.
But there is more to Armenia and Armenians than the genocide.
Halle is the right place to host the Mesrop center; the city boasts a long tradition of oriental studies, reaching back to 1694, especially studies of the Christian Orient. Another reason is the connection of the university to German reformer Martin Luther. Its director, Prof. Armenuhi Drost-Abarjan, has noted that the center’s namesake “was a counterpart to Martin Luther, … Luther plays the same role for our national literature as Mesrop Mashtots played for Armenian literature.” Mesrop’s groundbreaking translation of the Bible into Armenian was an inspiration to Luther, who explicitly acknowledged him as his forerunner when he undertook the translation of the Bible into the German vernacular.
Three Causes for Celebration
On October 18, in Halle an der Saale it was not one but three anniversaries that merited a festive toast: the cultural agreement between the Federal Republic of Germany (represented by the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt) and the Republic of Armenia was signed in 1998; the Mesrop Center for Armenian Studies at the Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg also reached its 20th birthday; and, the Yerevan State University and the Halle University looked back on a decade of partnership.