Like many post-Soviet societies, Karabagh today struggles to maintain civic values and education.Past practices – e.g. pride in collective or national ideals, concern with the welfare of one’s neighbors and fellow citizens – are no longer taken for granted. Instead, we have seen a rising preoccupation with narrow and parochial self-interest, especially among the youth. This is due to various factors, including the growth of materialistic tendencies that have that have taken root since the fall of the Soviet Union.
To address these issues, in 2007 the Foundation initiated a pilot program of lectures, discussion groups and debates involving youth from leading organizations throughout Stepanakert and Shushi. The forums exposed participants to ideas and concepts of citizenship that are not part of a typical education in Karabagh. The topics covered include the following:
• National and individual identity
• The role of youth in developing democracy
• Social and environmental awareness
• Values tied with patriotism or national awareness
In discussing and evaluating these ideas, the Foundation sought to encourage these youth toward more proactive and responsible citizenship, ultimately introducing a new culture of recognizing shared interests and values that can influence the rest of the country.
The program ran for two years, until 2009. While successful in a limited sense, the program revealed the need for much larger and comprehensive treatment than we were able to provide. We therefore discontinued the program, while sharing the results with thought leaders and officials in Artsakh.