Davit GasparyanHarvard University
Master of Arts in Regional Studies—Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia
Huys Scholar 2022
The post-Soviet countries are once again at the epicenter of world affairs. Nowadays, not a day goes by without the news mentioning Ukraine and Russia, and to a lesser extent Belarus, the three Baltic countries and even Georgia. Media outlets, analysts, politicians and professors around the world are busy analyzing and interpreting the tumultuous realities of the region. While Armenia may unfortunately often be left out of the discourse on TV and elsewhere, these affairs are not and should not be viewed as isolated from the realities of Armenia itself. After all, these countries were once part of the same union and are naturally interconnected in a variety of ways. Thus, what happens in each of the post-Soviet countries has the potential to largely impact Armenia, which can be seen today from the example of Ukraine. Today, Armenia faces new security challenges and opportunities, has to engage in new forms of diplomacy with both the collective West and Russia, and faces economic hardships juxtaposed with new avenues of growth.
It is important to acknowledge that the interest in and importance of fields like Eastern European, Eurasian studies are exponentially growing around the world. Armenia’s inextricable links to the region mean that in order to be better equipped in understanding, analyzing and predicting the nuanced affairs of the region and their direct and indirect influences on Armenia and its future, we, as members of the Armenian nation, need to follow this global trend.
However, when acknowledging the importance of this academic field, two main problems stand out to me: 1) Even within Eastern European and Eurasian studies, as mentioned, Armenia and Armenian affairs are often overlooked and left out of the discourse 2) Armenia itself risks not being able to keep up with the demand of specialized experts in the field.
Through my Master’s in Regional Studies—Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia at Harvard University, I hope to address both of the identified issues and find sustainable solutions to them.
Firstly, through my education, I will conduct valuable research related to Armenian foreign policy and raise awareness on Armenian affairs and their importance within the field. My M.A. degree will also provide me with a critical platform where I can meet and work closely with renowned faculty, the executive committee of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies (the center responsible for my master’s degree), Eurasian experts from all over the world who are affiliates of the Davis Center and Harvard, and driven students from a variety of backgrounds. I hope to take advantage of such important networking opportunities to work with renowned politics and economics professors and professionals in giving Armenian topics a platform and visibility, while setting a precedent for future research projects related to Armenia. Additionally, I aim to integrate Harvard’s Armenian Students’ Association with the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies which will open a plethora of new avenues for collaboration including in research, speaker events, and even provide potential funding opportunities for Armenian Harvard students doing pertinent projects related to the region. Finally, in recent years, the Davis Center has launched a research initiative on Georgian Studies in collaboration with the Georgian government and institutions of higher education. After speaking to the Executive Committee of the Center, I learned that they are trying to establish a similar initiative for Armenia. Given that I will closely work with Davis Center faculty, I hope to take an active role in helping the Center cooperate with Armenian higher education institutions and establish a Harvard University Armenian Studies initiative. This will be crucial in greatly increasing opportunities in the US for Armenian nationals, students and professionals, and also will enable affiliates of Harvard University to better cooperate with Armenia and do work pertinent to Armenian affairs. I want to be at the forefront of this initiative and use my Harvard, Davis Center, and Armenian networks to help execute the establishment of the initiative. Ultimately, such endeavors will greatly enhance the visibility of Armenian issues within the field of Eastern European and Eurasian studies and at renowned universities like Harvard.
Such ventures will undoubtedly also increase the engagement of Armenian youth, or Armenia’s future, in the field. Given the recent valuable focus on STEM and especially IT spheres in Armenia, many young Armenians often have left little to no space for humanities and social sciences which are driving forces of Armenia’s civil society, politics, diplomacy and democratization. Such trends also create a risk where Armenia may have a shortage of deeply specialized, interdisciplinary professionals in Eastern European and Eurasian studies. Through my own education, I will be able to obtain crucial, interdisciplinary grounding on the region, as I will take policy, international law and politics courses as they all relate to the region. My education will enable me to become one such Eurasian expert who hopes to accomplish work on behalf of Armenia. Additionally, I hope to use my knowledge and conduct workshops in Armenia for people interested in a career related to the region. My ultimate aim is to create enough interest in the field to then help amend the current state of Eastern European and Eurasian studies in Armenian higher education institutions. I would hope to demonstrate that this field could be as interdisciplinary and as welcoming of STEM and other backgrounds as possible. One can use data science, engineering, environmental science or any other field and combine it with Eastern European and Eurasian studies to produce fruitful results.
Ultimately, I hope to become an important voice for Armenia and Armenian causes in this field. Most importantly, I want to magnify and encourage the voice of other Armenians within the sphere, as it will only be of benefit to the future and growth of Armenia and the Armenian nation.
I am aware that Huys Foundation is granting the Huys Scholarship to me with the anticipation of my good faith pursuit and implementation of the projects and undertakings described in this letter, to which I hereby commit.