Education Minister Armen Ashotian rejected on Wednesday opposition calls for an urgent revision of a new history textbook for state-run universities that upholds the disputed official version of Armenia’s 2008 post-election unrest.
The textbook written by senior professors at Yerevan State University and approved by the Education Ministry blames opposition groups for the March 1-2, 2008 violence in Yerevan, which left ten people dead and more than 150 others injured.
It contends that the violence erupted after “demonstrators started attacking police forces” and that both sides used firearms in vicious clashes in downtown Yerevan. The book, which traces the history of Armenia from ancient to modern times, also slams the opposition led by Levon Ter-Petrosian for “blatantly rejecting” the official results of the February 2008 presidential election that gave victory to Serzh Sarkisian.
Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) has condemned the book and demanded its withdrawal from university curricula.
Ashotian made clear, however, that “not a single sentence” in the book will be changed because of the opposition outcry. “First of all, nobody has the right to limit others’ academic freedom,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “There is a group of scholars who have a particular opinion and the right to express it in a textbook authored by them.”
Ashotian said the book’s approval by the Education Ministry does not amount to a blanket endorsement of its controversial passages. “A minister of education cannot have expert knowledge of the Armenian history or physics or biology,” he said. “There is a conclusion by appropriate specialists that this book corresponds to standards set for university textbooks.”
The minister, who is a leading member of Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia, also accused the HAK of exploiting the 2008 bloodshed for political aims.
The HAK maintains that the authorities deliberately used lethal force to enforce the results of what it considers a rigged election. It also accuses the authorities of deliberately failing to prosecute those responsible for the ten deaths.