On the Edge of Empires: The Ancient Cultures of Armenia and Georgia (55+)

Located at the crossroads of western Asia and eastern Europe, former republics of the USSR and now independent states, Armenia and Georgia are among the oldest civilizations in the world, with a recorded history of about 3,500 years. The earliest in Europe to convert to Christianity, and to translate the Bible into vernacular languages, both countries endured struggles with Byzantines, Arabs, Turks, Genghis Khan’s armies, the Persian and Russian empires and Soviet totalitarianism. Despite assimilating many cultural aspects of their conquerors, the two countries have nevertheless preserved powerful national identities, languages, arts and cultures.

We’ll use abundant visual presentations to steep ourselves in the marvellous milieus of Armenian and Georgian customs, architecture, arts and crafts.

Please note that enrollment in this course is reserved for adults 55+.

Currently not available for registration.

What will I learn?

Week 1: In the Cradle of the Caucasus

We will explore the region’s geography and climate, history from ancient to modern, contemporary politics, and languages and religion.

Week 2: Symbols of Identity

Topics this week include: the world as a garden; the Sacred Mountain; the Temple; writing and a book; lace in stone: the ancient art of cross-stone (Khachkar) cutting; artifacts of domestic life; festivities and festivals; bread and wine making.

Week 3: Famous Artists of Armenia—Music

We will hear the ancient and modern music of Armenia. In particular we will learn about Khachaturian, an Armenian composer, viewing fragments of his ballet-drama Masquerade.

Week 4: Famous artists of Armenia—Film 

We will examine the legend of Parajanov, viewing his film The Colour of Pomegranate and making a virtual visit to his museum in Erevan.

Week 5: Famous Artists of Georgia—Visual Arts 

We will consider the life and work of Pirosmani, the most famous Georgian primitivist painter.

Week 6: Famous Artists of Georgia—Film 

We will learn about the harbinger of freedom, Abuladze, and his film Repentence.

How will I learn?

  • Lectures
  • Discussion (may vary from class to class)
  • Papers (applicable only to certificate students)

How will I be evaluated?

For certificate students only:

Your instructor will evaluate you based on an essay, which you will complete at the end of the course. You will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”

Textbooks and learning materials

Reading material (if applicable) will be available in class. Some course materials may be available online.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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