Lazarev Institute

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The Lazarev Institute (Lazarevskii institut vostochnykh iazykov ) was founded in Moscow in 1815 by the wealthy Armenian Lazarev (Lazarian) family primarily as a school for their children. In 1827 the school was named the Lazarev Institute of Oriental Languages (Oriental in the nineteenth-century sense, including the Middle East and Northern Africa) by the State and placed under the supervision of the Ministry of Public Education. For the next twenty years the Lazarev Institute functioned as a special gymnasium that offered language courses in Armenian, Persian, Turkish, and Arabic, in addition to its regular curriculum in Russian. The student body was composed mostly of Armenian and Russian boys aged ten to fourteen. In 1844 there were 105 students: seventy-three Armenians, thirty Russians, and two others. In 1848 the Institute was upgraded to a lyceum and offered classes in the aforementioned languages for the upper grades. The Institute trained teachers for Armenian schools, Armenian priests, and, most importantly, Russian civil servants and interpreters. The government, responding to the importance of the Institute's role in preparing men to administer the diverse peoples of the Caucasus, funded and expanded the program. Many Armenian professionals and Russian scholars specializing in Transcaucasia received their education at the Lazarev Institute. In 1851 Armenians, Georgians, and even a few Muslims from Transcaucasia were permitted to enroll in the preparatory division, where, in addition to various subjects taught in Russian, they also studied their native tongues. The Russian conquest of Daghestan and plans to expand further into Central Asia made the Lazarev Institute even more necessary. In 1872, following the Three-Emperors' League, Russia was once again free to pursue an aggressive policy involving the Eastern Question. The State divided the institution into two educational sections. The first served as a gymnasium, while the second devoted itself to a three-year course in the languages (Armenian, Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Georgian), history, and culture of Transcaucasia.

The Lazarev Institute had its own printing press and, beginning in 1833, published important works in thirteen languages. It also published two journals, Papers in Oriental Studies (18991917) and the Emin Ethnographical Anthology (six issues). Its library had some forty thousand books in 1913.

Following the Bolshevik Revolution, on March 14, 1919, the Council of the People's Commissars of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR) renamed the Institute the Armenian Institute and, soon after, the Southwest Asian Institute. In 1920 it was renamed the Central Institute of Living Oriental Languages. A year later it was renamed the Moscow Oriental Institute. In October 1921, a section of the Institute was administered by Soviet Armenia and became a showcase devoted to Armenian workers and peasants. By the 1930s the Institute lost its students to the more prestigious foreign language divisions in Moscow and Leningrad. Its library collection was transferred to the Lenin Library of Moscow. In the last four decades of the USSR, the building of the Institute was home to the permanent delegation of Soviet Armenia to the Supreme Soviet. Following the demise of the USSR, the building of the Institute became the Armenian embassy in Russia.

See also: armenia and armenians; education; nationalities policies, tsarist


Bournoutian, George. (1998). Russia and the Armenians of Transcaucasia, 17971889: A Documentary Record. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Press.

Bournoutian, George. (2001). Armenians and Russia, 16261796: A Documentary Record. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Press.

George Bournoutian