By Artsvi Bakhchinyan
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
YEREVAN — The new year, 2020, will mark the 35th year that Venice, the city of doges, canals, bridges, masks and renowned blown glass, will breathe with Armenian language and culture in August. This will happen again thanks to the Summer Intensive Course of Armenian Language and Culture, organized by the Cultural Association Padus-Araxes of Venice.
The association, founded in 1987 as a charitable non-profit organization for preserving Armenian language, notably its Western form, bears the Latin names of two main rivers of Italy (Po) and Armenia (Arax). Previously it worked under the auspices of the Eurasian Department of the Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, and now independently. It was established by Archbishop Levon Zekiyan, the founder of the Armenian Studies Chair of Ca’ Foscari University, an academician, Armenologist, and philosopher, leader of the Catholic Armenians of Turkey and Papal representative of the Mekhitarist Congregation in Venice.
Mgr. Levon Zekiyan considers Mkhitar Sebastatsi, “a greatness of universal standard” to be the true founder and inspirer of this summer course. The Mekhitarist Congregation of Venice and Moorat Raphael College of Venice (Collegio Armeno) are no longer teaching; however, this intensive summer course continues the Mekhitarists’ message of passing the Armenian spirit and culture to following generations.
The ideology behind this unique course first and foremost is the transfer of Western Armenian language and culture to the new generations of Diaspora Armenians who have often lost their national language. However, the number of non-Armenians attending the course is also not negligible; in fact, some have become academic Armenologists.