By Talar Kakilian, CRRC-Armenia International Volunteer
For the first time in, well, ever, CRRC-Armenia has become a full house. Hailing from all over Armenia and the globe, the office has become a bustling hub of diverse experience, ideals, and goals. Seven Junior Fellows, International Fellows, and International Volunteers have joined the CRRC-Armenia family in the hopes of being able to research, learn, and integrate their ideas in a professional setting. With intense social, political, cultural, and economic changes and developments taking place in Armenia right now, these young and bright individuals could not have come at a better time.
The use of social media has played an important role in CRRC-Armenia’s development, as many of the current fellows learned about the fellowship programs through CRRC-Armenia’s Facebook page. The CRRC-Armenia website was also useful for Anna Gradlyan, who would always use the CRRC Caucasus Barometer data while she was pursuing her Master’s degree in Political Science and International Affairs from the American University of Armenia.
Nevertheless, it was another important Armenian institutional figure that guided Nataliya Secretareva from Moscow, a graduate from the Lomonosov Moscow State University faculty of law, to come to Armenia. Natalya was assigned to read Mkhitar Gosh’s code of laws. Written in the 12th century, Mkhitar Gosh’s code of laws pertains to civil code and Canon law and was used in Greater Armenia and Cilicia. Intrigued by the importance of these laws, Natalya became fascinated by the place that hardly anyone “…can point out on a map and whose people’s first names exist to torment, but also teach those with average linguistic abilities.”
On the other hand, Dr. Emine Onaran Incirlioglu, professor of anthropology at Maltepe University in Istanbul, has joined CRRC-Armenia through the Turkey-Armenia Fellowship sponsored by the Hrant Dink Foundation. Emine hopes to use her socio-cultural anthropological background into her research so as to find a balance between academia and activism. She believes that, through Armenia’s and Turkey’s history and cross-cultural overlap, she can aid in finding a common language that can help mend the current issues.
As for our International Fellow, Daria Vorobyeva’s, a PhD candidate at St. Andrews University in Scotland, has come to Armenia to complete her dissertation. Focusing on the change of identities of Christians who escaped the modern Syrian conflict, Daria wants to understand better the current state of the Syrian-Armenians upon their arrival to the country, as well as the future plans and the shift in the identity of these individuals.
For many of the fellows, CRRC-Armenia is their first opportunity to get hands-on research experience in a professional setting. This is the time in which they can explore their passions while gaining valuable knowledge. David, who has a Master’s degree in International Relations from Yerevan State University, is excited about all of the sources he will be able to access through this fellowship Lilit Javadyan, who is working on her Master’s degree in Political Science from the American University of Armenia and wants to attain a career in the realm of public policy, is certain that the fellowship will prepare and train her with the adequate skills to find and analyze both quantitative and qualitative data.
The Fellows also believe that being able to meet and learn from professionals and fellow students is a very important factor as to why they chose this fellowship. Samvel Hovhannisyan, who is currently working on his PhD at the Armenian State University of Economics, believes that CRRC will refine his skills as an individual. More importantly however, Samvel was excited about CRRC-Armenia because of the people he would be able to meet and network with. He understands that learning and developing research skills comes not only from individual research, but also from working with others, whether it be with fellows that are his own age or employees at CRRC.
Nevertheless, each of these fellows are incredibly excited about this new path and cannot wait to see what the program has in store for them. Throughout the fellowship, the fellows are expected to complete their own research projects: David is hoping to conduct research and present a quantitative analysis of China’s military rise and the East Asian Security system; Lilit hopes to work on a project concerning Nagorno-Karabakh’s war veterans; Samvel wants to work on pension fund management issues in Armenia; Natalya is working on a project regarding the many interrelations of public policies, migration, and development; and Anna is working on local government development. These research projects are expected to develop the fellows’ skills so that they will not only learn how to research, but also analyze information that interests them.
For many, these research projects are not just a means to an end, but rather the first stepping stone in their future careers and postgraduate education. Each with their own hopes, CRRC-Armenia is giving these 8 individuals the opportunity to get one step closer to their future goals.
CRRC-Armenia is also aiding me, Talar, an international volunteer, realize what my aspirations are for the future. My position here is a bit different from everyone else’s, as I was placed at CRRC-Armenia through Birthright Armenia, a program created to help Diasporan Armenians volunteer, work, and get integrated within the homeland. As someone who studied history and public policy for my undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley, I am excited to have the opportunity to work at a fact tank like CRRC as it is a perfect stepping stone to my future career in public administration and policy analysis.
Throughout the last few weeks, CRRC-Armenia has become a newly budding family. Getting to know one another, we are all very excited for the opportunities that are about to come our way. The fellows and I all agree that CRRC-Armenia is one of the few organizations that enable young people to take a chance in the world and truly discover what it is like to work in a multifaceted field. The organization has created a support-system for us, contributing to the development of high-level human capital in Armenia. As David believes, “[the] CRRC’s work is unparalleled in raising the quality of social research in the South Caucasus and particularly in Armenia,” and believes that such an environment will only provide benefits for all of the fellows and volunteers. We are all excited to see what the future holds for us at CRRC-Armenia.