Armenia Wants Every Armenian to Write a Wikipedia Article

The 'One Armenian, One Article' campaign encourages everyone in the country to share their culture and language on Wikipedia.

Aug 1 2014, 12:30pm

Image: Shutterstock/360b

Update 14.30 BST: The editor behind responded as to why he was inspired to launch the Wikipedia-alternative, and I've added some of his comments into the text below.

It's like a huge Wikipedia edit-a-thon: In a national campaign, every Armenian is being encouraged to write an article on the crowdsourced encyclopedia.

The BBC reported on the campaign, which started as a Youtube video and is now showing on Armenian television. Called "One Armenian, One Article," it asks citizens to do exactly that: contribute one page to the Armenian-language version of Wikipedia.

According to the English-language Wikipedia page for "Armenian Wikipedia," it was set up as a joint initiative by Wikimedia Armenia and an Armenian TV show called Human Factor, and will run for a year. The point, apparently, is to "enrich the quality and number of the Armenian Wikipedia articles, including involving into the Wiki-sphere more and more representatives of the Armenian community, as well as the joint creation of the Armenian-language content which should be matched with the Armenian heritage and the challenges of the modern world."

Wikimedia UK's head of external relations Stevie Benton told me it wasn't the first time communities had banded together to put their flavour on Wikipedia, though he hadn't seen such a widespread action before (apparently even the Armenian defence minister has got in on the game, writing an article about the nation's army).

Benton said the Armenian-language Wikipedia was particularly strong, in fact; according to the site, it has over 124,000 articles and over 30,000 users. Unsurprisingly, that's not a patch on the English-language version, which has over 4.5 million articles, but it puts the nation state above the Hindi and Greek versions.

One Greek-language site even suggests the campaign may have an element of competitive spirit to it. Armenian Wikipedia is bigger than that in its neighbouring countries of Azerbaijan and Georgia. 

Benton seconded the idea that editing Wikipedia was a good way of preserving culture and heritage. "If you're only sharing knowledge from one language or one culture, then that really doesn't reflect the vast diversity that we as human beings have in our culture and our knowledge and our history," he said.

Diversity has long been an issue within Wikipedia, with geography and gender two big areas of divide. The new campaign may improve the Armenian presence on the encyclopedia, but it won't necessarily reflect the true diversity within the community; it seems almost certain that some groups of society will be more inclined to take up the challenge than others.

And it's unlikely to be entirely without controversy, given the hot issue of some of Armenian history—most notably the Armenian genocide, which Turkey does not recognise by the same term, and which is a highly emotive issue.

One Armenian Wikipedian I found on the site focuses on this controversy on his user page. "RaffiKojian" lists resources to counter those who argue there was no Armenian genocide. He also runs a separate Wikipedia-style site, which has no affiliation with Wikipedia and is not published under creative commons, called Armeniapedia

I asked why he thought the Armenia-specific site was necessary, and he said over email that it was partly because Wikipedia wasn't able to host some content, like recipe books or sheet music, but also because of the political controversy. He explained that, "when I tried to make corrections or additions regarding the Armenian Genocide or Karabakh, I quickly saw my edits getting deleted again and again by denialist Turkish or Azeri editors, often anonymously."

He welcomed the push to encourage more Armenians to get involved, but admitted that, "Unfortunately, virtually any article that overlaps with Armenia's neighbours Turkey and Azerbaijan is controversial."

But overall, Benton said he didn't think there would be many particular problems. "I think it depends on the way people approach the project," he told me. "I would imagine that, given the publicity of this project in Armenia, many Armenian Wikipedians will be on hand to help the new editors understand the way Wikipedia works, and understand the rules of neutral point of view and verifiability, those kind of things."