[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
mail:
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]
Italiano

[Link to a series of help pages]
Help
[Link to the next level up]
Up
[Link to my homepage]
Home

[image ALT: link to previous section]
Chapter 41
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
A History of Armenia

by Vahan M. Kurkjian

published by the
Armenian General Benevolent Union of America
1958

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next section]
Chapter 43

p406 Chapter XLII
Modern Armenian Literature1

Constantinople, Tiflis, Venice, Chief Centers

After the extinction of their political life, in the old homeland as well as in Cilicia, the Armenians established colonies in many lands, carrying with them the love of their language and literature. In their various alien environments, their thoughts turned with deep veneration to their ancient authors, whom they considered the champions of their national independence. Great numbers of Armenian literary centers came, therefore, into being all over the world. The remoteness of these from each other and the environment in which they developed, must naturally have influenced the direction in which each of them advanced. The Russian spirit and the German language — which was then fashionable in the land of the Tsars — exerted their influence on the Armenian communities in Moscow and Tiflis. In Constantinople, Smyrna, Venice and other Western communities, the French, Italian, and Greek cultures became p407models, while the study of the French language and literature became predominant in the Armenian high schools of Turkey.

The new literature thus began to develop in all branches — drama, fiction, epic poetry, satire. Works on history, archaeology, philology, sociology, science, law, politics, etc., appeared on bookshelves. Among the centers in which modern Armenian literature blossomed and flourished were Constantinople, Smyrna, Jerusalem, Etchmiadzin, Tiflis, Moscow and Vienna, with Venice topping all of them. The Monastery on the island of St. Lazar, in close proximity to Venice, which the Senate of that Republic had granted to the Congregation of Mekhitarists in 1717, became until the middle of the nineteenth century and beyond an intellectual beacon for the Armenians of the world.

17th Century Renaissance

With the seventeenth century, there burst forth a renaissance of Armenian literature, when writers in Russia, and later on, in Turkey, ventured to use the vernacular (ashkharabar), rather than the classical language. Abbot Mekhitar, himself the founder of the St. Lazar Congregation, had compiled a grammar of the modern Armenian speech. Books, pamphlets and periodical publications helped towards this transformation by popularizing the National and foreign works, which were until then within the reach of only a few men of erudition. The effect of this movement on the welding of the thought and sentiment of the masses and in creating a public opinion, was most remarkable.

Mekhitar, the Abbot (1676‑1749)

Mekhitar was born in Sivas, his baptismal name being Manoug. His early training was entrusted to Armenian nuns, and he was ordained a deacon at the age of fourteen. Spurred by a keen desire for learning, he journeyed to Etchmiadzin, but was disappointed in his expectations there. Three months later, he went to the cloister of Lake Sevan, where he found solace in a vision of St. Mary. On his way back to Sivas, he stopped at Erzerum, and at the request of the Superior of the Monastery of Passen, remained there a year, instructing the students. At the end of that time, deciding that the environment was unfavorable, he returned home. But the exertions of travel were too much for his frail constitution, and he fell ill. For a year, his eyesight was threatened. When he recovered his p408health, he was consecrated Vardapet at the age of twenty. With wide knowledge and effective eloquence, he began to preach. He was now ready for the realization of his favorite objective — the creation of a brotherhood for service in the spiritual and intellectual fields.

With the hope of visiting Rome, Mekhitar left Sivas in 1695, his first stopping place being the port of Alexandretta. There he boarded a boat for Cyprus, but during his short stay at Alexandretta he had contracted malaria, which made him unwelcome on board the vessel. A good Samaritan rowed him ashore, whence he was taken by others to the Armenian monastery of St. Macar. There, through the summer months, he suffered from neglect and contempt on the part of the so‑called pious ascetics.2 The sickly, penniless priest returned to Sivas and retired to the monastery of St. Nishan, near that city. In 1696 Mekhitar made a trip to Constantinople, calling there upon Khatchadour Vardapet, a famous scholar, for advice and aid. The latter could not be granted for lack of funds. While in Constantinople, Mekhitar gathered a dozen disciples, and translated and published several books, among them The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis.

Suspecting him of being a Latinist agent, the patriarch of Constantinople, Avediq, planned to have him imprisoned, but Mekhitar took refuge in the monastery of the Capuchins (mendicant friars). Here, in company with his disciples, he formally founded a religious order dedicated to St. Mary, on September 8th,º 1701. Shortly afterward he sent a few of his disciples to Morea (Peloponnesus) in Greece, then under Venetian rule. He then escaped to Smyrna, and a little later, to Morea, at the very time when the Turkish police were searching for him. The Venetian government gave the Mekhitarist order a large tract of land on which to build a church and a monastery, and the order was placed under the protection of the Pope.

When Morea was threatened by the Turks, the congregation was transferred to Venice in 1717, and because the Senate could not legally donate land or buildings to religious institutions, the Island of St. Lazar, on which there was already an ancient church, was transferred to that body. There had been an Armenian colony in p409Venice since the thirteenth century, enjoying privileges or grants such as a bridge and a cemetery. Among them were commission agents, printers and ship-owners. They helped the new congregation financially. The monks prayed, worked, and studied. As expressed by Victor Langlois, they stood on European soil, "with eyes turned towards the Levant, the cradle of the Armenian race."

When Mekhitar died, the once-barren island had been transformed into a center of Armenian culture. "Mekhitar was a model of sanctity and studiousness," says Fr. Janashian, "his disciples saw in him a pattern of the real and learned master. He taught to work with collective effort and academic character. The beautifully printed Bible which he published and the magnificent Armenian Dictionary he compiled demonstrate this." (History of Modern Armenian Literature, Venice, 1953.)

The printing of the Bible was a colossal achievement. Mekhitar was not content with the Bible of Oskan Vardapet, printed in Amsterdam in 1666. Oskan's corrections were made according to a Latin text. Being desirous of comparing it with a Greek text, Mekhitar obtained a copy of the "Seven-Language Bible," printed in Paris in 1645, containing the Hebrew, Syriac, Greek, Latin, Arabic, Chaldean and Samaritan texts. The comparison and printing of the work occupied three years. Also among Mekhitar's works are a Grammar of the Classical Armenian, Book of Virtues, a Grammar of Modern Armenian, etc. He took great pains in purifying the language from its latinization by the Unitors, without injuring the sensibilities of the Romanic zealots. His name has received international recognition, and the Roman Catholic Church has elevated him to the rank of Beatitude.a

Michael Tchamtchian (1733‑1823)

Foremost among Mekhitar's pupils was Father Michael Tchamtchian, author of a History of Armenia. Although based upon national and foreign sources, the authenticity of which has been attacked by recent critics, Tchamtchian's work has great value as the first systematized and chronologically set compendium of twenty centuries of the history of Armenia and neighboring countries. Moreover, he merits recognition for his untiring perseverance which, even under unfavorable conditions, accomplished the printing of the three large volumes in a little more than five years (1781‑1786).

p410 Injijian and others

The Geography of Ancient Armenia, by another of Mekhitar's pupils, Father Lucas Injijian, is one of several monumental works of that author. Fr. Agontz Cuver, also a geographer; Frs. M. Aucher (Avkerian), Kh. Surmelian and G. Avetikian produced in collaboration the great "Dictionary of the Armenian Language" in two large volumes. Arsen Bagratouni, an eminent poet, author of "Haik the Hero," and of the "Grammar for Advanced Students" and the translator of Homer, Vergil, Racine, Voltaire and Alfieri; Archbishop Edward Hurmuz, poet and translator of Vergil's Aeneid and Fenelon's Telemachus, and Father Eghia Tomajan, translator of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey must not be omitted.

Others to be mentioned for their varied literary accomplishments are the Fathers Basile Sarkissian, G. Zarbhanelian, H. Thorossian, S. Eremian, S. Eprikian, A. Ghazikian, G. Der Sahakian, V. Hatsouni, S. Der Movsessian.

Ghevond Alishan (1820‑1901)

Another Mekhitarist scholar of stature is Father Ghevon (Leontius) Alishan. He was born in Constantinople and given the baptismal name of Keropeh (Cherub). At the age of twelve he was sent to St. Lazar Seminary. Returning to Constantinople after graduation, he was ordained priest in 1840.

He appears next in Paris as a professor in the Mooradian College, of which he eventually became the Dean. In this capacity, he was a source of inspiration to great numbers of Armenian students from Turkey, Egypt, Persia and Russia, some of whom later filled high governmental positions, or served the Armenian nation as professors, journalists and spiritual leaders.

In 1872 Alishan retired from educational and administrative work, and devoted his time thereafter to scholarly research and activity — archaeology, geography, mythology, philology, poetry, etc. and published many books, from his own pen or translations, and several valuable manuscripts. His ardent patriotism and vast erudition made him the most popular writer of his time. His fiftieth anniversary in religious and literary work was celebrated in 1890. He died in 1901 at the age of 81.

Of the fully one hundred works of Father Alishan, perhaps the most elaborate ones are, Souvenirs of the Homeland — Shirak; Sissouan, p411Ayrarat, Sissakan, Hayapatoum in two volumes.

These works — philological, geographical and historical — have a decidedly poetical cast. In fact, Alishan's rightful place in literature would be among the poets, even though he wrote mostly in prose. His language — the classical, the modern and the vernacular — has an original and individual tone. Several of his works have been translated into European languages, among them Sissouan into French. A. Tchobanian says of him, "His chant is the sublimest, the richest, the most vigorous and the most diverse that the Armenian lyre has sounded in modern times." As some critics see him, fervent patriotism dominated Alishan's writing, at the expense of scientific objectives. Nevertheless, despite his charming originality, he seems to have been influenced at times by Chateaubriand, Lamartine, Hugo, Goethe and Schiller.

Vienna Group

The Mekhitarist Congregation of Vienna, which had its beginning in 1774, has been interested more particularly in philological and historical studies, and has published translations from works in the German language. Their polyglot printing press capable of turning out artistic work is considered one of the best in the Austrian capital. The Mekhitarists of Vienna have produced many eminent scholars, such as S. Tornian, H. Katerjian, M. Karakashian, A. Aydenian, G. Menevishian, G. Sibilian, S. Dervishian, H. Dashian, G. Hovanian, G. Kalemkiarian, and N. Akinian.

Archbishop Arsen Aydenian (1825‑1902), was of encyclopedic mind and mastered ten languages, ancient and modern. He was conversant with the pure sciences — mathematics and cosmography — also the fine arts, including music, design and engraving. Western scholars admired the universality of his culture. His great work, a Critical Grammar of the Modern Armenian Language is a masterpiece on Armenian philology.

Another star in the Vienna constellation was Rev. Hagopos Dashian (1806‑1933)º He was a first-rank scholar. His head, it was said, was a library, comparable with that of Alishan. We have from him studies on Agathangelos, Pseudo-Callisthenes,º Armenian Paleography, the Legend of Abgar, etc. Special attention is due to his stupendous Catalogue of the Armenian Manuscripts of the Mekhitarists of Vienna and his Study of the Armenian Classical Language, originally outlined by Fr. K. Spenian.

p412 Awakening in Turkey

The first step towards the diffusion of modern Armenian literature in Turkey was taken by Apcar of Tokat. He had founded an Armenian press in Venice in 1565, forty-three years after the one established there by an Italian. In 1567 Apcar, assisted by Arakel, the monk, set up a printing house in Constantinople, too. Others followed their example, publishing books mostly for use in churches.

Yeremia Keumurjian

The outstanding of the new period in Turkey was Yeremia Keumurjian, called Tchélébie, a title of honor given by the Turks to Christian laymen of high standing. Yeremia, a member of an aristocratic Armenian family, was a man of culture, well versed in the Turkish, Greek and Latin languages, as well as in his own mother tongue. He wrote a History of the Ottoman Sovereigns and a Description of Istambul; he translated parts of the Armenian history of Khorenatsi into Turkish, at the request of Turkish scholars. He died in 1695.

Hovhannes Golod and others

Hovhannes Golod, Patriarch of Constantinople from 1715 to 1741, himself an erudite man, encouraged the enterprises of printing and book-publishing. Patriarch Hagop Nalian (1741‑49, 1752‑64) was a theologian and writer of distinction. Grigor Peshtimaljian, who died in 1837, was a lay educator of renown, as well as a poet and grammarian.

Nahabed Roussinian (1819‑1886) and others

Armenian literature in Turkey was strongly influenced by nineteenth century writers of France, where a considerable number of young Armenians had received their higher education. Foremost among these was Dr. Nahabed Roussinian, who championed the cause of the modern Armenian language (Ashkharhabar) as a medium in public schools, instead of the classic Grabar. He succeeded in achieving his objective, but he failed in his grammatical innovations. In reform movements in general, as well as in administrative and educational branches, Roussinian had distinguished associates, such as Hagop Balian, Mgrditch Agathon and Krikor Odian. These men also played important roles in the affairs of the State. p413Garabed Panosian, an outspoken journalist, was another advocate of progressive ideas. His proposals in 1864 for certain canonical reforms, the institution of divorce, for example, raised a storm of protest on the part of Church authorities. Mgrditch Beshiktashlian (1828‑1868) left his mark upon his national literature as a professor of the Armenian language, and particularly as a poet and playwright, reviving heroic Armenian deeds and figures of the past. Another poet and playwright, versed in European classics, was Thomas Terzian. Archbishop Khoren Narbey, eloquent preacher and brilliant personality, was also a linguist and poet — lyric and elegiac.

Writers of Smyrna

The city of Smyrna, half Greek and half European in culture, the adopted home of a small Armenian community, was another hive of intellectual activity. In 1840 it gave birth to the weekly Arshalouys Araratian (The Dawn of Ararat), founded by Lucas Baltazarian. Other periodicals that followed were the Arpee Araratian (The sun of Ararat), Dzaghik (the Flower), Meteora and Arevelian Mamoul (The Eastern Press). Madteos Mamourian, editor of the last-named monthly, as well as Grigor Tchilinkirian were translators of several European works — the Werther of Goethe, Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, the novels of Dumas, Eugene Sue, etc. Among the prominent literary figures of Smyrna in the nineteenth century were Stepan Oscan, Caloust Constantian, Grigor Mserian and Mesrop Nubarian.

Mgrditch Khrimian

An Armenian provincial literature in Turkey, representing the genuine national spirit of the people, came into being through a clergyman of Van, destined to become during his lifetime (1820‑1907) the most popular of Armenian personalities. This was Mgrditch (Baptist) Khrimian, known as the "Hairik" — Dear Father or Papa — who in 1871 was elected Patriarch of Constantinople and in 1892 Katholikos of Etchmiadzin, the Supreme head of the Church. A self-educated man, not versed in any European language, Khrimian studied in his own language sufficiently to become familiar with the progress of human thought in general, and in particular, with the treasures of Armenian literature, ancient and modern, and the multifarious aspects — religious, political, social and philosophical — p414of the contemporary situation of the world. In 1854, while still in his native district, he entered into the priesthood in the monastery of Aghtamar, on an island in the Lake of Van. His progressive tendencies were resented by the brethren, so he left them and gave himself to independent service. For several years he traveled extensively, to Constantinople and other Armenian centers in Turkey and the Caucasus. His sermons, as well as his written messages won for him public admiration and affection.

He established a printing press in Van, and put forth a periodical called "Ardzwee Vaspourakan" — "The Eagle of Vaspourakan." Next in Mush, he started another journal under the title of "Ardzwig Tarono" — "The Eaglet of Taron," Taron being the province in which Mush is situated. He was the first apostle to awaken the Armenian aristocracy and the intelligentsia of Constantinople and Tiflis to the right appreciation of the peasants and townsmen of the National homeland. The latter element, the urban lower class, was represented largely by the porters and servants who came to the city to toil for years, enduring a hard, even wretched bachelor life, to enable them to return home at last with a few pounds earned at the cost of great privation. Through the forceful pleadings of Khrimian, these unfortunates became objects of consideration, as the guardians of the best traditions of the past and the cherished hopes for the future. Among Khrimian's literary products were: An Invitation to Ararat; An Invitation to the Holy Land; A Family of Paradise; The Pearl of the Heavenly Kingdom; Sirach and Samuel; Grandfather and Grandson. He also published pamphlets depicting the abject misery of the Armenians in the interior of their country, and he even hinted at persecutions instigated or perpetrated by the Turkish Government itself.

Garegin Serwantzdian (1840‑1892)

Ranking next to Khrimian among the provincial writers comes Bishop Garegin Serwantzdian, born in Van and educated under Khrimian. While on a mission from the Patriarch Nerses of Constantinople in 1879, he traversed various parts of Armenia, risking his life among Turkish and Kurdish fanatics, while collecting precious material on ethnological and topographical subjects. His "Thoros Aghbar," "Horod Morod," "Grotz Brotz," and five other books were avidly read in every Armenian center in Turkey and Russia. The "Thoros Aghbar" (Brother Thoros) is the name of a waterfowl p415which he saw plunging into a lake in Armenia, disappearing and reappearing again and again, apparently in search of something in the water, but always failing. The bird's untiring persistence inspired the author to delve deeper and deeper into research until he had gathered many valuable items of folk-lore — sometimes from colophons and manuscripts, or from stories, songs, benedictions or maledictions, all crumbs left from remote antiquity. Bishop Serwantzdian's labors saved cultural traditions which otherwise would have been lost forever, since their living guardians had been eradicated by the Turks in 1915.

Other provincial writers who cultivated local and native literature were Boghos Vardapet Natanian, Hovhannes Haroutunian (Telgadintsi), H. Mirakhorian, and Kegham Der Garabedian.

Khatchatour Abovian (1805‑1848)

The first novelist in Armenian literature was Abovian, who, in 1840, wrote his novel, The Wounds of Armenia, an expression of the people's soul, in popular language. The work was not published until many years after the death of the author.

Abovian's birthplace was Kanaker, a village in Erevan province, rich in beautiful scenery. He received a primary education at Etchmiadzin Monastery, then attended Nersessian Academy at Tiflis. Before graduation, he was called upon to serve as a secretary of the Katholikos. He also had the good fortune to accompany Professor Parrot, the German explorer, in an ascent of Mount Ararat.

Soon afterward, in 1830, upon the recommendation of Professor Parrot, he entered the University of Dorpat, Estonia, where he studied for six years. Returning to Etchmiadzin, he opened a school. But he soon became a target for persecution, because of his modernistic and supposedly Protestant ideas. Transferred to Tiflis, he suffered the same harassment there. He then obtained a position in the provincial school, married a German girl and became the father of a boy.

Moving to Erevan, he enjoyed friendly treatment after the death of the Katholikos, Hovhannes of Garpi, leader of the reactionaries. But he did not realize his hopes under the new Katholikos, Nerses of Ashtarak, and another source of grief developed in his home. His plea for divorce was denied by the Church, and Abovian, discouraged and melancholic, vanished in April, 1848. The cause of his death — if it was death — remains a mystery. It has been variously p416called suicide, assassination by a Persian foe, or by order of the Russian Czar Nicholas I, to whom are ascribed the murders of Lermontov, Pushkin and other liberals.

His Works

Abovian's first works were poems in ancient, classical language, patriotism being the dominant subject. The best among his numerous productions is the novel in popular language, The Wounds of Armenia. Following this came Filial Love, Forerunner of Education, Zankie, Agnes and the Daughter of the Turk. Several of his works remain unpublished. The Wounds of Armenia isº based on an actual incident, the abduction of an Armenian girl in Kanaker village during a war between Russia and Persia. While narrating the heroic deed of the central figure, Aghasi, it incidentally depicts popular beliefs and customs. The villagers' enjoyment of the hilarity of a carnival is rudely interrupted by a raid of the farashes (armed attendants) of the Sardar (Governor) of Erevan, whose object is to kidnap the beautiful Takhuni from the arms of her weeping mother. Aghasi arrives just in time, kills four of the soldiers and saves the girl and her mother.

The rescue did not, however, go unpunished. Hassan, the Sardar's younger brother, destroys several Armenian towns and villages, only a few of them resisting. The rest of the novel pictures combats with the Persians, Aghasi and Hassan being the respective leaders. Abovian calls his book an historical novel, giving it the sub-title, Lamentation of the Patriot.

Critics find faults in the work, such as repetitions, incongruity, insufficiency of moral issues and expatiation. But he is nevertheless considered the forefather of Armenian fiction.

Mesrop Taghiatiants (1803‑1858)

Born in Erevan. Trained at Seminary of Etchmiadzin. Went to Constantinople, then to Calcutta. Taught in Girls' High School in that city, published a monthly, Azgasser (The Patriot); wrote history, fiction and poems imbued with high patriotism.

Bedros Tourian (1851‑1872)

Born in Constantinople. Showed his talent for poetry at an early age; wrote exquisite lyric poems, but suffered poverty. He died at 22,º an object of affection and admiration.

p417 Krikor Odian (1834‑1887)

Born in Constantinople. Statesman, intimate of Midhat Pasha, who restored the Ottoman Constitution. Odian fled to Paris for fear of Sultan Hamid's enmity. From Paris he contributed to the Armenian press of the capital. His style was elevated, and he had a rich vocabulary. Known as "the Eminent Exile," he died in Paris.

Hagop Melik-Agopian ("Raffi") (1835‑1888)

Born near Salmasd, Persian Armenia. The most outstanding Armenian novelist. Attended Armenian and Russian schools in Tiflis; then studied on his own. He attempted a business venture but soon failed in it. From 1872 to 1884 was a staff-writer for Mshak. The Russo-Turkish war of 1876‑7 supplied him with material as an eye-witness of the refugees' sufferings. As an advocate of freedom for Armenians of Turkey, his name became popular. He chose to be a schoolteacher from necessity, but wrote many patriotic novels, among them Jelaleddin, David Beg, Samuel, The Demented and Sparks. He died in Tiflis.

Hagop Baronian (1842‑1891)

Native of Edirneh, European Turkey. A humorist from an early age. While working as a bookkeeper, he published many periodicals, such as Euphrates, The Bee, Theatre, The Children's Friend, etc. Through his knowledge of the Greek and French languages, he was familiar with the satirists, old and new, as well as with mythology. His writings always stirred laughter, but his object was to rebuke at the same time the loose life of the people, especially of Constantinople. Some of his humorous works are The Honorable Mendicants,º Uncle Balthazar, The Oriental Dentist, Khikar (Ahikar), etc.

Grigor Ardzrouni (1845‑1892)

Born in Moscow, son of a wealthy general, his home languages were both Russian and French. Graduated from State Gymnasium in Tiflis, he then studied physics in St. Petersburg, where he began to be interested in Armenian affairs. Returning to Moscow, he wrote for Armenian periodicals. Having contracted tuberculosis he went to the south of France. After recovery, he took political and philosophical courses in Germany, then studied literature at St. Lazar, Venice. On his return to Tiflis, he launched the Mshak, a weekly, p418then daily publication. Despite reverses and suspensions, this paper survived, even for some time after Ardzrouni's death. It was a progressive newspaper, its aim being the salvation of the new generation and the awakening of national consciousness. It ceased to appear in 1920.

Gabriel Soundoukiantz (1825‑1912)

Born in Tiflis. The greatest representative of Armenian theatrical literature. Author of several plays, his masterpiece being "Bebo," a drama that leaves a deep impression.

Kamar Katiba (Raphael Patkanian) (1830‑1892)

Born in Nor Nakhitchevan on Don; trained by his father, he received higher education at Lazarian Institute, Moscow. After one term at Tiflis as a teacher, he went to the University of Dorpat, Estonia, to study languages, thence to Moscow University. Leaving college, Katiba founded his own periodical, Husis (The North), which was short-lived. Later, he was principal of the Diocesan school at Nakhitchevan. He wrote poems, songs, and text-books, also made translations from Russian and German. His poem, "Mayr Araxi Aperov" (On the Banks of Mother Arax), is still sung by Armenians. The heroic deeds of the ancestors and the cruelties and sufferings endured by his countrymen were his favorite themes. He heralded an era of popular awakening.

Mme. Srpouhi Dussap (1842‑1901)

Born in Constantinople of an Armenian mother and a French musician father. Inspired by Beshiktashlian's songs, she became a writer, as well as the founder of the Society of Dbrotzasser (School-Lovers). She wrote three novels — Maida, Araxia and Siranoush. As a pioneer feminist, she aroused some resentment, but in the end she became popular with poets and intellectuals.

Rhetheos Berberian (1850‑1907)

Born in Scutari, Constantinople. Educator, poet, linguist and eminent author. Having mastered the classic Armenian, he adorned with it his romantic poems. At nineteen he translated Lamartine's "Death of Socrates" and other poems. Berberian College, founded by him, attained high prestige.

p419 Eghia Demirjibashian (1851‑1908)

Born in Constantinople, son of an artisan. Graduated from Nubar-Shahnazarian College. An early devotee of fiction, when still a youth his name began appearing in periodicals. For a living, he worked as a clerk in the offices of Public Works, but his yearnings were intellectual, and he was unhappy. His melancholy condition induced his kinsmen to send him to Marseilles, France, to study business law. He preferred philosophy, however, and founded a paper in French. Returning to Constantinople, he wrote articles on various subjects. His thinking was a strange mixture of the pessimistic, positivist, skeptical, poetic and theosophic. Despite such vagaries, he commanded publicº affection. Readers eagerly sought his articles, and schools were anxious to have him as teacher or principal. His career was brief, however. He had lost father, mother and brothers, and loneliness so affected his mental faculties that he was confined for a time in a hospital at Yedi-Kouleh. He committed suicide shortly after his discharge.

Arpiar Arpiarian (1852‑1908)

Graduate of Moorat-Raphael, Venice. Talented novelist, journalist, correspondent of Mshak of Tiflis. Prolific writer, author of Red Alms, Blessed Family, etc. Worked in London, Paris, the Caucasus and Egypt. Once jailed as revolutionist in Constantinople. Finally assassinated in Cairo by a political partisan.

Missak Medzarentz (1886‑1908)

A young poet of particular charm and originality. Occupies a high rank among the best Armenian poets of the West. Has left a collection of poems, "The Rainbow" and "New Verses".

Rouben Zartarian (1874‑1915)

Born in the province of Kharput. Had an active political life. He later devoted his time to writing. He left legends, idyls, stories, in a beautiful language and charming style.

Krkior Zohrab (1861‑1915)

Born in Constantinople; received his education in public and Roman Catholic high schools. He studied law and practiced it brilliantly. He was also a man of letters, one of the most eminent of his p420time. His charming personality attracted friends, both men and women. In disputation, he usually carried his point, but found it hard to control his temper. In the dark days when the Turkish menace was growing, when a deputation was on its way to Berlin, he attacked the Patriarch Nerses and his advisers; and in the Ottoman Parliament, of which he was a member, during a debate on military service for non-Moslems, he spoke in favor of it, but sent his wife and children to Paris on the following day.

Just before the First World War, the Turkish Cabinet, under the so‑called Ittihad (Union and Progress), had decided to destroy the Armenian population. Zohrab, a member of the Ittihad and of the Parliament, and an intimate of Talaat Pasha, boldly fought against the execution of this horrible design, but all in vain. He himself was one of the 250 intellectuals of Constantinople doomed to perish on the road to exile.

As an able and eloquent attorney, he had won the confidence of clients of all nationalities. And yet ambition and innate urge moved him to seek expression in literature, where his accomplishments were preeminent. His works were numerous — essays, novels, editorials, plays, criticism, satires, polemics, even poems. To mention a few of his novels; A Vanished Generation, Voices of the Conscience, The Life as it is, Mute Sorrows, etc. Aggressive, at time contradictory and unreasonable, yet he had multitudes of ardent admirers.

Daniel Varoujan (1884‑1915)

Known by his poetical works, Shuddering, The Massacre, The Nation's Heart, Pagan Chants, Chants of Bread, etc. Emotional as well as realistic, his varied talents are magnificently displayed through the rich resources of the Armenian vocabulary, of which Varoujan was a master.

Adom Yarjanian (1877‑1915)

Known by his pen name Siamanto. Lyric poet, sentimental dreamer, has left some beautiful pages. Author of "Heroically," "Red News from my Friend," "Invitation of the Country."

Maghakia Ormanian (1841‑1919)

For twenty-eight years tutored in the theological institutions of Rome. Ormanian forsook the Roman church, and became a vardapet of the Armenian Church in 1879. After serving in and near p421Constantinople, he was appointed Arachnord (prelate) of the Diocese of Erzeroum, where he served for seven years. In 1887 he was appointed Dean of the Seminary at Etchmiadzin, but the unfriendly attitude of the Russian Governor-General shortened his stay. Returning to Turkey, he was named Vice-Abbot of Armash, near Izmit, and Dean of the Seminary there. After the first massacres, he was the only one among the higher clerics to be acceptable as Patriarch of Constantinople. Ormanian was the author of Azgapatoum (3 volumes), a history of Armenia with respect to the Armenian Church, Hamapatoum, a concordance of the Gospel, and The Armenian Church, its Doctrine and Administration. Besides treatises in Armenian, he has also published books in French and Italian.

Hovhannes Toumanian (1869‑1923)

A beloved popular poet, he wrote songs, poems and tales, among which are the well known David of Sassoun, Anoush, and Sack of Lori.

Erouand Odian (1896‑1925)

Native of Constantinople. Mostly self-educated by travel. He might have been called a successor to Baronian, the satirist. Fear of terrorists caused his flight to Athens. Then he worked in Paris, in London and Egypt, where he joined Azad Bem (Free Pulpit), a weekly. Among his many humorous writings are The Usurer, The Go‑Between Priest, A Mission to Dzabelvar and The Parasites of Revolution.

Minas Tchéraz (1852‑1929)

Born in Constantinople. Graduated from Nubar-Shahnazarian College. In early youth he published the Ergracound (Globe), a periodical. After holding positions in national councils and educational committees, he was made secretary of the Armenian delegation sent to Berlin under ex‑Patriarch Khrimian. In 1889, Tchéraz, then principal of the Central College, fearing arrest by the Turkish police, left Constantinople for London. There, as an unofficial agent of the Patriarchate of Turkey, he worked for the Armenian claims. He published a monthly paper, L'Arménie, in French and English; also wrote for French papers on Armenian culture and the role of Armenia in world history.

p422 Shirvanzadé (Alexander Movsesian) (1858‑1935)º

Native of Shirvan district, Aghwanq. A gifted fiction writer and a dramatist, one of Armenia's finest. He received an appointment to a State office in Baku, but later relinquished the post and induced the Mardasirakan (Philanthropic) Society to establish a library, with himself as librarian. His early writings had appeared in Mshak. Through his novels he became a public hero; but on the charge of being a revolutionary, he was imprisoned and exiled to Odessa. Armeno-Turkish troubles caused him to move to Paris, where he attended lectures at the Sorbonne. Upon the birth of the Armenian Republic he visited the United States; then after a lengthy stay in France, he returned to Armenia and lived in Tiflis until his death. Among his works are From the Memoirs of an Agent, The Guardian's Fire, For the Honor, A Married Woman, Vain Hopes, The Chaos, The Possessed, etc.

Eghisheh Tourian (1860‑1930)

Patriarch of Constantinople and later of Jerusalem. An intellectual giant, he was well versed in French, English, Hebrew, Greek, Latin and German and so deeply engaged in scholarly research that he had little time for the publication of his writings. Some of them were printed by his former disciples at the Jerusalem Seminary. They included Armenian history, Armenian paganism, mythology, and ancient Armenian literature. He compared in part the Armenian translation of the Bible with the Greek text. His Collection of Studies and Criticisms (posthumous, 1935) is a precious chrestomathy.

Papken Gulesserian (1868‑1936)

Born in Aintab. After a course in Vardanian High School, he received religious training and order in the Convent of Armash, where he wrote A Critical Study of Eghisheh. Ordained bishop at Etchmiadzin. Among his works are Islam in Armenian History, Hovhannes Golod, History of the Katholikosate of Cilicia (in part), etc. Bishop Papken visited the United States in 1916 and published the Taurus monthly. Thence went to Jerusalem and for five years lectured to upper classmen in the Seminary. Finally he became Coadjutor Katholikos of Cilicia at Antelias.

p423 Torkom Coushakian (1874‑1939)

Called to occupy the seat of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, he edited the Sion monthly. The financial condition of the monastery of St. James was greatly improved under him. Patriarch Torkom published a masterly translation into modern Armenian of the classical Narek. He wrote also the biographies of Katholikos Khrimian and Patriarch Tourian. He had been appointed by the Katholikos Kevorkº as the General Executive Director of the world-wide celebration of the fifteenth century of the invention of the Armenian alphabet. He subsequently published an exhaustive compendium of the speeches and studies made on that occasion in various countries.

Vahan Tekeyan (1877‑1945)

A journalist and a prominent national figure of high principles. Accomplished poet, author of "Cares," "Wonderful Resurrection," "From Midnight to Dawn," "Love," etc.

Zabel Essayan (1876‑1947)

Born in Constantinople. Followed courses in literature in Paris. A talented writer; author of several novels of high literary quality; Well-bred People, My Exiled Soul, Prometheus Released.

Avetis Aharonian (1866‑1947)

Born in Iktir, at the foot of Ararat. A distinguished writer. Author of some 30 novels, dealing mostly with the misery of the Armenian people. Was President of the Armenian Delegation at the Paris Peace Conference, after the First World War, and signed the Treaty of Sèvres, in 1920.

Arshag Tchobanian (1872‑1954)

Graduated from Armenian Central College of Galata. Poet, critic, and realistic novelist; he was unexcelled among Armenians who wrote in French about his native land. Jacques de Morgan's History of Armenia was compiled at his suggestion. His monthly review, Anahid, contained many literary gems. Among his works are Chants Populaires Arméniens, Trouvères Arméniens, La Roseraie d'Arménie, in 3 volumes. He met death in Paris in a traffic accident.

p424 Eroukhan (Ervant Srmakeshkhanlian) (1870‑1915)

A talented writer, his style has a characteristic beauty. The subjects of his novels are taken from the life of the humble class. Among his works are, The Daughter of the Amira, Legitimate Son, etc.

Avetik Isahakian (1875‑1957)

Born in Alexandropol (Leninakan), died in Erevan. A great and most popular, beloved poet. Author of charming poems; Songs and Wounds, Abu Lala Mahari, translated into many foreign languages.

The list of prominent Armenian writers of our times is long, indeed; the following names should at least have a mention here: Berj Broshiantz, Mikael Nalbandian, Stepan Nazariantz, Sembat Shahaziz, H. Hovannisian, Vahan Terian, E. Tcharentz, T. Demirjian, Nar‑Dos, Mouratzan, V. Papazian, S. Bartevian, Dikran Gamsaragan, M. Gurjian, Anais (Yevpime Avedissian), etc.


The Author's Notes:

1 For the compilation of a list of outstanding Armenian literary men, the author acknowledges his indebtedness to several well-known writers, ancient and modern. Among others, particularly grateful thanks must go to H. Thorossian for his excellent Histoire de la Littérature Arménienne, which has been of invaluable assistance.

The latest period of Armenian literature has presented a delicate problem. The number of writers is so great, both in the Eastern and Western fields, that the author has had to confess his inability to draw up a suitable list from among them. He therefore called on a group of competent Armenian writers in New York to assist him in the task.

Their selection is presented on these pages. The generally extensive knowledge and the excellence of the style of the writers on the list made the choice a difficult one, and various other considerations have also entered into the selection.

2 On Sunday, Sept. 8th, 1901, the two hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Mekhitarist congregation was celebrated there on the monastery grounds by the pupils of the Orphanage of Nicosia. An artistic monument to the memory of Abbot Mekhitar was constructed by the graduates of the institution as a souvenir of the event, and dedicated in 1931.


Thayer's Note:

a Our author did not quite completely manage to skirt the fact that Mechitar at some point had become Catholic. For a Catholic view of his life, supplying not only balance but additional information, see the article Mechitar in the Catholic Encyclopedia.


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 28 Dec 10