In the wake of the 2020 Artsakh war, the Zoryan Institute of Armenia International Foundation for Research and Development (ZIA) has launched the Second Artsakh War Oral History Project (SAWOHP) to gather audio-visual testimonies from a wide demographic of people impacted by the recent conflict.

Oral history is an essential tool in understanding how individuals and communities truly experience the forces and factors of history, by preserving firsthand accounts that round out written memoirs and analysis. There’s a unique and critical need for oral history in order to preserve the stories of those who lived through some of the most catastrophic human experiences.

The Zoryan Institute has a wealth of experience conducting and preserving post-conflict oral history testimonies. Zoryan Institute’s Armenian Genocide Oral History Collection is the largest collection of Armenian Genocide survivor testimonies, with approximately 3000 hours of recorded testimonies from over 750 interviews. It is one of the Institute’s earliest and most significant projects, and the collection continues to hold considerable significance for family members, scholars, students, researchers and filmmakers.

In 1990, the Zoryan Institute also collected first-hand, tape-recorded interviews from 45 eyewitnesses and victims of the Sumgait pogroms against Armenians in February 1988. These testimonies were published in the book, The Sumgait Tragedy, and share detailed information about the attacks, and what the survivors saw and suffered.

The interviews conducted through the SAWOH Project will be assembled and organized in various forms and made generally available as research source material to researchers, practitioners and organizations. In addition to creating a detailed archive of testimonies, through the SAWOHP, ZIA also hopes to gain a more in-depth understanding of the events, destruction, and trauma that survivors of this conflict have experienced in order to provide useful information for humanitarian relief and aid efforts to the region. Interviewers conducting the interview may also be able to identify and offer useful resources for survivors and eyewitnesses experiencing PTSD and other mental health related inflictions.

The Zoryan Institute is working closely with the American University of Armenia through its Zoryan Institute and AUA Center for Oral History located at the university’s AGBU Papazian Library to transcribe the recorded interviews, and to eventually translate these stories to make them available to a wider international audience. This accessible research database will allow for a more in-depth understanding of the lasting impacts of the war, as well as provide valuable insights for post-conflict societies.

ZIA has a goal of interviewing a minimum 100 people impacted by the war. In order to achieve this, we need the support of our donors and the Armenian community worldwide. Each interview costs approximately $350 USD to record. This includes the use of the audio-visual equipment, lighting, support staff, travel and collection storage and maintenance. Collecting these testimonies in a timely manner is extremely important to meeting the intended objectives of this initiative.

“We believe that one of the best ways for us to fully understand the complex history of the Second Artsakh War is through compiling the oral testimonies of those directly involved.  In this way, we are allowing these voices to be preserved and studied in the future.  We urge all those who are invested in the need for academic study and scholarship to contribute to this urgently needed program.”

– Atom Egoyan & Arsinée Khanjian

To sponsor an interview, please visit www.zoryaninstitute.org/donate or mail your donation in the return envelope enclosed. Sponsors located in the United States and Canada will receive a tax-deductible receipt and recognition of their donation on the Zoryan Institute website. Thank you in advance for your generous support.