Letter to the Editor: The American University of Armenia Is Renowned for Its Independence


In response to Anna Shahnazaryan’s Comments in “Armenia: The Struggle for Justice (Part II)


The American University of Armenia (AUA) was troubled to read about the malinformed comments by Anna Shahnazaryan in her interview with David Barsamian in the piece titled “Armenia: The Struggle for Justice (Part II).”

The American University of Armenia, Paramaz Avedisian Building (Photo: AUA)

First, Ms. Shahnazaryan’s claims that AUA is a “part of the establishment” and is “not an independent academic platform where critical thought is developed” are an unfortunate distortion of reality. The American University of Armenia is renowned for its independence and encouragement of free expression. Furthermore, the development of critical thinking skills is among the qualities most frequently cited by alumni as being learned in the course of an AUA education.

Then, Ms. Shahnazaryan dismissively states that the American University of Armenia is proud of its alumni who work at the World Bank and within the government of Armenia, including in a number of ministries. Indeed we are. These institutions have a role in the future of Armenia, as do others of which AUA alumni are a part. These “others” include opposition political parties, activist groups, and myriad non-profit and non-governmental organizations. The diversity of viewpoints represented by the multifarious career paths pursued by AUA alumni testifies to our commitment to being an open platform for all. We do not dictate where our alumni should work.

As an environmental activist in Armenia, it is unfortunate that Ms. Shahnazaryan fails to mention the significant role played by AUA and, in particular, the university’s Acopian Center for the Environment, in promoting a greener and more environmentally-conscious Armenia. Most recently, AUA launched a program in environmental studies, the first of its kind in Armenia. Or, as a feminist, it would have been more artless for Ms. Shahnazaryan to note that the university has been at the vanguard of promoting an honest discussion of women’s issues within the country, not least through a recent multi-day conference with the express goal of empowering girls and women within the country.

In line with the American University of Armenia’s principled belief in the freedom of expression, Ms. Shahnazaryan is certainly entitled to having her own opinions on issues about which she is concerned. However, she is not entitled to her own facts. We hope that in writing this response, we have righted any misperceptions that may have arisen from her comments and we likewise hope that future discussions will be informed by facts so that the civil discourse, which is so integral to Armenia’s development, is effective.

—The American University of Armenia

Guest Contributor

Guest Contributor

Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles or press releases written and submitted by members of the community.


  1. By the very nature of its name and its funding, the University is not an “independent” institution. The AUA is a catalyst of American/Western/Globalist sociopolitical agendas in the country. It is therefore a cancerous cell.

  2. So essentially, you’re disapproving of one western agent being against another western agent. The Capitalists vs the Communists, which is a similar conflict brewing in the USA between the right and the left such as “Trump supporters” and “Hillary/Bernie supporters”.

    Can you name anything of importance in Armenia that is in fact really “independent”, free of both Western and Russian interests? The last April war with Azerbaijan and subsequent friendly dealings with Turkey proved that Russia’s interests are not actually aligned with Armenia’s like some have been thinking, or, hoping…

  3. Lao, despite what fedayee-wannabes like you want to believe, Armenia has existed for the past two hundreds years only because of the region’s Russian factor. No Russia in Armenia = no Armenia in the Caucasus. You need a lot of self-educationg to do if you want me to discuss these things with you.

    • Same old tired aparatchik nonsense. Armenia has re-existed for only 100 years, and that is thanks to the ARF Fedayees, not Russia and especially not those early Armeno-Bolshevik tools that you so admire. (The 200 year story is based on Armenians only moving to Russian Armenia for it being a Christian nation when Russia was a monarchy, and it was still Russia, not an independent Armenia). Soviet Russia wouldn’t have cared less if Armenia was inside Russia, Azerbaijan or Georgia. And Armenia relies on Russia for its security precisely because Russia created that condition in the first place. And btw, how is that sale of the S-400 and Turkey’s first nuclear reactor compliments of Mother Russia, working out for Armenia’s “security”?

  4. Zartir, is correct. While the AUA is indeed by name alone biased towards Western Beliefs, one must also recognize that Western beliefs are precisely those that Armenia needs.

    This fetish with Russia is perverse. It’s like the beaten wife going back again and again to its abuser.

    Russia and the Soviet State has done NOTHING but oppress Armenia, only through clever bribing and manipulation did Armenia benefit in the Soviet Union. Also, lest we forget that at every opportunity to reclaim the stolen lands of Armenia from Turkey, Russia/Soviet Union chose not to. Additionally, lest we forget that the Soviet State purposefully dissected Armenia and gave Nakhchivan and Artsakh to the Azeri’s.

    Quite literally, all of the geopolitical problems that Armenia is currently enduring, short of our relationship with Turkey. Are Russian or Soviet Imposed. While the Soviet Union was not run by Russians for the most part, Russia was the enforcement mechanism by which everything was instituted.

    Today, Putin uses real politik to impose his will on Armenia, by ensuring the region is always in flux and unstable.

  5. Very well said AUA
    I find it unfortunate that the Armenian Weekly chose to give such a platform to Ms. Shahnazaryan. Of course she is entitled to her opinion, as is every person in Armenia and in the Diaspora, but why give her opinion more importance and visibility than others.
    I only read the “first part” of her interview and, decided not to waste my time reading the second part of your interview with her.
    Did Ms. Shahnazaryan, when she criticised the fact that some AUA alumni work for the Armenian Government, forget that before starting to get paid by an ECHR lobby group, she also worked for the Armenian Government?

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