The largest state university of Hungary, the ELTE (Eötvös Loránd University), houses an Armenian library, on the basis of which, according to linguist Benedek Zsigmond, a department of Armenian studies is to be established.
In this university having a 400-year history studied and then taught famous scholar of Armenian studies Edmon Schultz. While Schultz’s contribution in the field of Armenian studies is quite significant, the first Armenian linguist in Hungary was Ghukas Patrvanian, a professor at the ELTE in the late 19th century. A native of Transylvania, Ghukas Patrvanian has moved to Budapest and became a linguist and an Armenologist.
The Armenian library at the ELTE contains samples of his work, including the “New Testament” published in 1857.
Armenian studies at this university have been taught continuously for 120 years, first by Ghukas Patrvanian and then by Edmon Schultz. Professor Edmon Schulz, a well-known philologist, literary critic, and an author of numerous scientific articles based on historical observations, became interested in studying a number of languages in the 30s-40s.
At first, the linguist studied Turkish and became a Turkologist. Then, he took up a number of languages belonging to the Turkic language group. During the study of these languages, Schultz stumbled upon a language that was unfamiliar to him. This was a discovery for the professor – it was a mixture of Coptic and Armenian.
Interested in what he had seen and in order to understand the found texts, Schultz studied the Armenian alphabet and gradually learned some Armenian letters. He then became acquainted with Armenian literature and history. Falling in love with the Armenian language, he became a dedicated expert of Armenian.
At the ELTE, which at the time had 35 thousand students, Schultz taught Grabar (Classical Armenian) for a decade. Later, he extended his expertise to Eastern Armenian and the history of Armenia.
After the death of the professor, his books were donated to the library of the university, on the basis of which the Armenian Library would be created. Now, the library contains various books and documents covering the history of Armenian music, architecture, classical works, and, of course, the Bible.
The library was opened in 2003 and currently has about 3,000 books, among which are samples from the 18th century. Today, only a few people use the library, despite the fact that there are Armenologist students studying at the university.
According to linguist Benedek Zsigmond, there is interest in Armenians and Armenian studies at the ELTE, but the break in diplomatic relations between Armenia and Hungary has affected the level of scientific cooperation between the two countries.
“It is necessary to distinguish between science from politics,” said the linguist, noting possible horizons of cooperation that currently are not developing due to the politicization of a part of the intelligentsia.
Now, it is planned to resume the cooperation between the ELTE and Yerevan State University and to establish a department of Armenian studies on the basis of the Edmond Schultz Library. All the prerequisites necessary for this do exist, but the final decision is hanging in the air, just like the Armenian-Hungarian relations.