In Soviet Armenian we have had more than a dozen figures in literature and art, some living and some deceased. Sadly we have heard little about them.
We have in hand a biography of Gegham Sarian, which we gladly and proudly offer, along with samples of his works.
Gegham Sarian was born in 1902 in the village of Pakhavants of the Rushduni canton of Van (some say in Shadakh), according to Mr. Arsen Yeretsian (“Nor Or”), not far from the southeast shore of Lake Van, just as the poet himself claims, “at the charming southern shore of Lake Van, opposite Aghtamar.”
Mr. Yeretsian was acquainted with Gegham’s father, Sarkis Sarian, saying that he was the son of the sister of the Catholicos Khachadur of Aghtamar. Until the tragic events of ‘96 they lived in an opulent and princely manner, thanks to the catholicos. At the time of the ‘96 events, in order to escape certain death, Sarkis embraced the Kurdish identity, taking on the name of Khurshad. With the declaration of the 1908 Constitution, Sarkis resumed his Armenian identity. It was then that Gegham was born. But he became an orphan because his father was killed by the Kurds during the 1915 massacres. Gegham was taken to Yerevan by those in care of him. He completed his studies there and then went to Leninagan to teach. At the same time, he devoted himself to writing poetry.
Gegham Sarian has written more than thirty books and poems. His first work was “Shiragi Harsanik,” followed by “Yergir Khorhrtayin,” and “Yergati Vodnatzayn.” Other works, ballads, describe and sing of the life of the people. G. Sarian was a first class poet, inspired by A. Isahakian and Omar Khayam, the great Persian poet. Somewhere he has written, “When you read these lines, feel the presence of my heart.”
Thanks to the encouragement of the government, Gegham Sarian had the opportunity to develop and broaden his unique style of writing. His works were appreciated by the government as well as by the people of Armenia and elsewhere.
Here we offer some examples of his works.
A VISIT WITH THE HEROES
O heroes of the fatherland, O bared formidable swords,
We have come from Armenia, where the bright spring shines,
Where verdant flowers bloom out of the mother soil
And field and forest beam.
Where our streams sing harmoniously in the valleys,
And the sun turns our mountains into gold,
Which even in this fearful hour stand with bold spirit,
Our very own mountain range.
We have come from Armenia, and bring greetings and salutations
From our venerable fathers and our resplendent sisters,
In blooming beauty.
Now in our fields, full of hope our village farmers
Are planting their seeds in the fertile soil.
Full of faith, they look to the majestic dawn
And wish you victory.
From the dawn to the evening, and from the evening till dawn
Our diligent workers are busy, ceaselessly, and alert,
They are your genuine brothers, the glorious workers of our land,
They wish you victory.
The army of red-scarfed youth, myriad, innumerable,
Full-flowing like the river in spring, a flood abundant,
Are growing, maturing, making ready for battle on the morrow,
They wish you victory.
Sleeplessly through the whole night, the black-eyed woman sews,
Sacrificing for the fatherland, the grief of her companion in heart,
She wishes you victory.
His heart fired for battle, his mind given to a burning desire,
The Armenian poet, now in joyfulness and now in sadness,
Creates a song of heroism, and about the glory of life to come,
Wishes you victory.
* * *
TOWARD THE SCAFFOLD
(To the Memory of Komitas Vardapet)
The tempestuous Black Sea was foaming over its banks,
Benumbing Constantinople in its opulent gardens.
And the tops of its slender minarets were bathed
in the colorful glow of sunset.
The formidable darkness of night spread over the sea,
And it was there that the last view came to rest.
Like a Golgotha, in its harsh silence, a mysterious ship
Was anchored there near the shore.
It stood there, like a dark, gloomy coffin,
And the Armenian crowd moved toward the shore.
Their look given to it as a last farewell,
As a mourner to the sad burial mound.
It was there they were, near that evil ship
All the masters of Armenian lyricism.
The stars of the Armenian bright minds were extinguishing,
Powerless in the darkness of that terrifying moment.
They, pale of face, were being taken to far-off shores,
Two hundred they numbered.
Being faced by the beastly look of the Tajiks,
Like daggers hung from their faces.
They were all there -- thoughtful Varuzhan,
Siamanto, his eyes turned to the ether.
And who would know what he was thinking, Komitas,
With countless songs in his bosom.
And who would know, his eyes tuned toward the waters,
What deep hopes he silently mothered.
Or that his soul was filled with grief,
Like the whispers of the waters in the darkness.
They were being taken to a far-off scaffold,
Heaven was watching, and the night was silent.
The sea too was agitated as were their hearts
Beating against the shore, as the terror of death.
They were being taken to a scaffold. Varuzhan was silent,
Siamanto in deep thought.
His look toward the infinity of the heavens where stood Komitas,
As a column of the temple.
Interfused was he, it seemed, with the blue evening,
His beard flowing in the cold breeze.
His lips in song, singing out of a cold heart, from the Armenian Liturgy,
The soul-stirring “Der Voghormia.” [Lord, have mercy]
He was in song, ... the flow of tears, drop by drop,
Was like the sound of song.
He was in song, ... and the melodies of hope, and supplication
Were his only source of serenity.
The ship moved out, gloomily, like a coffin,
And the muted crowd on shore
Was offering its last farewell, eyes glued on the ship,
As bereaved looking on a sad burial mound.
It moved off, lost in the mist of the sea,
And the darkness absorbed the hope of the “Der Voghormia.”
The wind brought in the last sounds of the sea waves,
As cold, cold drops.
In the heavens, the crescent of the moon slid out of the clouds,
Joyful and imperitorial,
Just like the toothy smile of the sightly whore
Living under Kaiser Wilhelm’s privilege.
I have never forgotten you, O paternal home, light of my soul.
Often have I come to the door, lit a fire against the cold of winter.
Often have you come to visit me, sat beside me, and chatted,
My dear one, my soul mate. I have never forgotten you.
Since the sad days of my parting from you, years have come and gone.
Do you, perchance, remember me? Or have you long since forgotten?
I recall our mountains. Do we still have our vineyards?
Does our pure stream still sing its song, my priceless playmate of childhood?
Give the sea of Van my greetings. I miss it very much.
Is that nest at the top of the poplar still there? Does the stork still live?
Is our faithful dog still there? Does our naughty cat still play?
Who now lives beneath your eaves. Think they are masters forever?
My martyred father’s precious tomb, who might have scorned and desecrated it?
Who now plants our fields, and who plucks our roses?
Just as the wine deep in the winepress I have kept my hope alive.
Time will come when we shall victoriously enter our paternal home,
Cymbals will cry out their joy, there will be feasting and celebration.
The inextinguishable lamps will glow. We soldiers will file past proud,
And the songs of jubilance will sound from vineyard to vineyard.
MY MOTHER’S GRAVE
On the delightful shore of the sea of Van, opposite Aghtamar,
On the road to our village, there lies a modest grave.
Who lies there, beneath the soil, in perpetual darkness?
Who is it unremembered, without a stone, unnamed?
It is my mother; do you hear, the giver to me of life, my soul.
I was without care, a young butterfly, suckling at my mother’s breast.
Then the enemy’s harsh sword parted me from my mother.
Do you hear? It is she now calling to me from far, far away.
I am coming, O my mother. From our mountains I am bringing flowers,
To decorate your unfortunate, your mournful, your sorrowful grave,
So that you will rest in peace on the shores of the Armenian sea,
And look happily with your blossomed eyes at your new, free grandchild.
The son of the lamented teacher Krikor Ajemian went from Van to the Caucasus and completed his early education in Armenia. He became accomplished in dedicating himself to literature, and today, as a poet, he occupies an important place among the ranks of Armenian writers. Alas, however, that during the most recent purges he was exiled to a distant, unfamiliar place along with some government officials and intellectuals. It is not known just what his end was.
While in Yerevan he edited the “Veradznunt” [Renaissance] weekly with Prof. Set Arsenian.
Here is a sampling of his numerous writings.
A SONG TO MY LAND
O my soviet land, my Soviet Armenia,
Let not any foreign whip crack on your face,
Nor any fist of a dictator, or evil autocrat.
Let no one give you paradise, nor fool hero, nor king.
Let me be close to your song, and fill longing,
O my soviet land, my Soviet Armenia.
SWEET LAND OF MINE
In the fields, the flowers in bloom, in hutches, oh so many children.
Put a glow on my coming, O my land, I will sing a sweet song.
The darkness of evening spreads, like a gray rose,
The sun has burned out, into ash, beyond the mountains.
But under the stars of my land, it will bear so many children,
O travail, deep, yet distinct. I will sing of thee, sweet land of mine.
He was born about 1900, in the Kharaganis village of Van. He was displaced to Armenia where he developed and enhanced his talent for writing.
He received his higher education at the University of Yerevan. He was a central figure among Soviet Armenia’s poets.
His works were Noyemperian Orerun, Rushani, Karape, Tiutsaznakirk (biography and praise for Stalin), Shigatsadz Hokov, Tzayn Hayrenagan, Ara Keghetsig, Gordzanetsek Berlin, Datevi Zhayrits, Hatsvan (novel).
A sample from his pen.
THE LANGUAGE OF THE ARMENIANS
Come, brothers, let us glorify the sweet tongue of the Armenians,
Water for our lands, sword for our hands, weeping of our soul, the Armenian tongue.
It reached us from our valleys, our mountains, and our hearts.
Always living, like the Araks, always inexhaustible, the Armenian tongue.
It was the first cry of our heroic patriarch,
It caressed us from the time of the cradle, that matriarchal Armenian tongue.
From the father of our poets, to Kuchag, and to your servant,
It has granted us our dreams, our songs, and our way.
We had gone astray during those tempestuous nights,
We would have been lost if we did not utter bits of the Armenian tongue.
How many people have vanished, as sands in a downpour,
But the Mesropian letters of the Armenian tongue withstood the Leninist flood.
Today it still angrily resists assault, and glows with pride,
And it, the Armenian tongue, stands heroically long with it heroic brother tongues.
Then come, let us praise it, and make it shine like a sword,
So that it will gleam forever brightly in the sun, the Armenian Tongue.
MGRDICH PORTUKALIAN [p 174]
Born in Constantinople, October 21, 1848; Died in Marseilles September 26, 1921
It is true that Portukalian was born in a family from Yevtogia, and that on his first visit outside of Constantinople he went to Yevtogia, where he taught for a time. However, this great patriot spent his early productive years in Van Vasburagan as the founder and director of the Van teachers’ school.
He loved Van and wanted to live there, to work and to die there, if the persecutions had not come to demolish his plans. The Ararat Society was being founded in Constantinople in 1876. With the death of the chairman, Minas Cheraz, Portukalian, the energetic patriot of the times, and as a member of the executive committee, went to Tiflis to confer with the editor of the “Mshag” paper, Krikor Ardruni, concerning opening Armenian schools in Armenia. It was said that Ardzruni advised opening the school in Van. On returning to Constantinople Portukalian submitted the plan to the Society, and it was decided to open the first temple of education in Van. As a consequence, Portukalian, in October of that same year, went to Van, and, as the first project, opened a primary school in the village of Timari Aliur. The war in the east reached the region, and Portukalian was obliged to go to Tiflis, where he worked with the “Mshag” paper. In 1878 he returned to Van, and in 1879 he opened the teachers’ school for the purpose of preparing teachers for education in the rural areas.
Thus, Van was to be a forge for education in the region, and perhaps for all the Armenian world.
This writer remembers well that very happy day when with a classmate from the St. Hagop school we set out to visit the principal Portukalian, who examined us and accepted us in the first class. There we would with great contentment continue our studies, satisfied even with bread crusts, to enrich our minds. But, unfortunately, in 1981 the school was being sentenced to be closed, though later it was reopened through the personal sacrifices of Portukalian.
The teachers’ school had competent teachers. They were Mgrdich Sarian, of Constantinople, Dajad Knuni, a fine historian and university graduate, Garabed Pilibbosian from the Caucasus and teacher in physical education and swimming. Local teachers were Dikran Amirjanian, Margos Natanian, Melkon Bartevian, Khoren Khrimian, and others. They turned out well educated students among whom we name the following: M. Terlemezian, E. Kondakjian, K. Natanian, R. Shadvorian, Kalusd Arslanian, Gh. Khanjian, K. Beozigian, and many, many more who, as bright stars, became educators, enlightening the surrounding populace.
Along with his work in education, Portukalian was a torch-bearer in the fatherland’s freedom movement. His fiery speeches and patriotic lectures put him under suspicion, threatening the possible closure of the school. But Portukalian was not one easily discouraged. In 1881 he traveled to Tiflis and Constantinople, and on returning to Van, and with the help of Khrimian and A. Gamsaragan, the Armenian ambassador from Russia, he opened the Haygazian Central school.
Portukalian was reinforced in his role in the national revolutionary movement by Khrimian’s “paper and iron ladle” speech. With the cooperation of a number of youths he brought into being the “Black Cross” [Sev Khach] society which was trying to awaken the people in the matter of the freedom movement. Portukalian and Dajad Gnuni were giving long patriotic lectures in public gatherings that were taking place in the Haygazian Central school.
In 1882 the National Constitution was being celebrated in Van with the participation of 18 societies. Portukalian, Khrimian, and Ambassador Gamsaragan together, as the Triple Force,” crafted the revolutionary freedom movement in Van. Portukalian’s seven-year period of stay in Van became its “Period of Renaissance and Golden Age,” as claimed by Mr. Haig Ajemian.
Portukalian became Khrimian’s ‘right hand’ with his spirit and energy for education, by spreading education throughout the province, and building enthusiasm in all the people.
In 1884, about forty selected youths, in a quiet corner of the St. James parish, celebrated the 25th anniversary of Raffi’s birth. It was his book “Gaydzer” [Sparks] that had sparked their hearts and led them to decide to take the path of revolution, guided by the principle of training and education. But the Sublime Porte had directed the governor to expel the enthusiasts for education from Van. Khrimian on March 12, 1885, and Portukalian on March 16, were exiled to Constantinople, leaving behind what they had created. Portukalian left Constantinople for Marseilles (and Hairig for Jerusalem) where he undertook the publication of the newspaper “Armenia,” in which he revealed to the world the pillaging of the people of Armenia by the Turks and the Kurds. He called out the path for Armenian freedom. His ideas for the nation, for revolution, and for patriotism were being adopted by virtually all Armenians, except for a number of reckless groups. His ideas became a “Covenant of Faith” for the pupils he prepared and put to work. And it was from that covenant that the Armenagan Party was born.
Director and leaders were the immortal Avedisian, Kondakjian, and others. The party continued using that name from 1888 to 1915, after which it joined the Ramgavar Liberal Party. Portukalian remained always tied to the principle of ‘preparation and then revolution.’ The party that shared his principles twice found it necessary to take up arms, fight, and die. This writer, in going from Van to America and from America to Van, as well as in being invited to the house of the lamented one [Portukalian] for a meeting, had contact with him and noticed that he was tenacious in his ideas of the path to be taken, together with his paper, until death.
With the cooperation of Dikran Amirjanian, Hayrabed Janigian, Garabed and Margos Natanian, Portukalian formed the ‘Progressive Society.’ Its purpose was to support liberal candidates at elections, out of which the term “Aboghosian” arose, being Hayrigian against the rich supporters of Bishop Boghos who were known by the name “Boghosian,” a reactionary group.
It is evident that Portukaliian, in dedicating his time to education, teaching, management, and later the heavy demands as editor, did not have the time to do much writing. During his time in the prison at Yevtogia, or on the road to exile, he wrote a number of songs, which were soul-stirring and provocative. For example, on the tenth anniversary of the National Constitution he wrote the following, which was being sung so enthusiastically.
Let there be a stop to tears from Armenian eyes.
Let the dusty lyre be taken down from the walls.
Let the strings sound the music of our desires,
For Armenians today are declaring love and union.
Here are a few of his songs.
ARMENUHI’S PLEA TO ARMENIA
When I hear the name of my Armenia, my heart pounds mightily.
When I recall the sufferings, my eyes are wetted with tears.
Even if I am exiled, and fortune makes of me a wanderer,
For the sake of my Armenia, every place becomes a paradise.
That I may attain my purpose, let them raise me on the scaffold.
Even from the scaffold will they hear my choking call to Armenia.
THE MAIDEN’S TEARS AT THE RUINS OF THE FATHERLAND (1)
A land of ruins, with remains of thrones,
Splendid churches and palaces, buildings and crowns,
A mutilated land, it seems, quietly lamenting their past glory,
I see there, a small, melancholy maiden.
Though I wander from city to city,
Fortune and man persecute me endlessly,
When even the majestic sound of freedom
Flows from my mouth, I accept this grief.
I am dedicated to freedom,
And glad to accept this grief.
Though I am far from the bosom of my loved ones,
Far from their tender voices and songs,
My sad lyre hanging from the cypress trees,
I silently lament the fortune of my poor nation.
Though the bitter tears flow from my eyes.
Evincing the longing, grief, and wound of my heart,
The tears of my heart, and wounds are washed away
By the pain of wounds of my nation.
A wanderer, though I am bitter these days,
One day you shall see, you have attained your purpose,
Freedom, victory for your life,
With roses and lilies to adorn your brow.
I am dedicated to freedom,
And glad to accept this grief.
A VOICE FROM ARMENIA’S FATHERLAND
Sounds of lament are being heard from Armenia,
That stir even rock-hard hearts.
Can it be that you fail to hear those sad sounds
That your wretched mother cries out to her son?
Long live our Armenian nation,
And the ‘Union of Armenian Patriots.’
Is it possible that a man would not love his fatherland,
When what even a beast feels for its young?
By what name shall we call that Armenian who is a tool
For the foreign hand, to betray his fatherland?
Is it not so that we cannot remain indifferent,
When the voice of the fatherland calls?
We must cry out loudly, “Forward, O Armenians,”
And let them see that Vasburagan is not fainthearted.
O sons of Haig, look, from the peaks of Masis,
Forty centuries are witnessing your actions.
Advance, fearlessly, following that flag,
Where patriotic Armenians have gathered.
We do not know if he has other songs, but what we have given here are enough to show the tremendous spirit of the lamented one. Having endlessly sung for the freedom of the fatherland, spoken and worked until his death, he had as his motto, which he created, and donated to the Armenian General Benevolent Union, “Strength in Unity” [Miutyune Zoruyiun E].
He was born in Aygestan, Van, in 1840. Through self-education he became an intellectual, having been called a historian, mathematician, linguist, poet, philologist, public speaker, armenologist, etc. For many years he served as a teacher, and part-time physician and attorney. He was director of the Aghtamar orphanage. He operated a private primary school, which he continued for a long time. He established the first Turkish-language weekly in Van, and he lectured in a number of schools in Van, in Armenian, Turkish, and other languages.
His works included Tzlguni Meykhanen, Vani Kavaraparpar pararan (with 30,000 words), Vani Kavaraparpar Keraganutiun.
He prepared a “Compendium of Memorabilia” of parchment manuscripts in the monasteries and churches in the region around Van (he worked on the last three volumes for thirty long years).
For his philological works he was awarded a prize of 30 gold pieces by the Hovsep Izmirlian Literary Group, in about 1900.
He was a correspondent for the Arevelyan Mamul and for many papers in Constantinople, using the pen-name of “Dzidzernag” [swallow]. Because of his modesty most of his works remain generally unknown.
Because of his many activities, Paraghamian in later years handed his school activity to the care of a well versed villager named Vartan Ohannesian. For a time he was in the monastery at Aghtamar, and on his return in 1908, he died. His only son, Armen, went to America and settled in Fresno, California,
He was born in Van, in the St. Hagop parish, in 1835, when the Armenian people were groping in the depths of ignorance, especially under the despotic rule of the Turks. He received his primary education in the parish school, under the care of H. Yeramian and his father Priest Der Mesrop Papazian.
He studied also at Khrimian’s Varak Seminary, where the journal “Ardzvi Vasburagan” was being published. Amirjanian would later become one of its important staff members. He, as did Khrimian, for a time went to Constantinople where he taught in homes to provide for his daily needs. Later, through the intercession of Margos Aghapegian, he taught for six years in the Aramian school of Kade Kiugh, and at the same time continued his studies to assure a more favorable income.
He then returned to Van, and after marrying he dedicated himself, until his death, to the education of children. He was the first of teachers in Van who were competent to teach French, and as such he was a unique figure there where no one spoke French. That was until 1889, when the Araratian and United Teachers’ college were opened in Van through Portukalian’s efforts and management, and when the beginning was being marked of schools as they were understood at the time.
As a senior teacher Amirjanian taught classes in Armenian and in French, first in the Hisusian school and then in the St. Boghos church “Usumnadaradz” school where many of the students were from the upper grades of the parish schools. The founders of this school were attorney Sahag Kaljian, Melkon Bartevian, and Nshan Shirvanian.
I always tremble when I recall my time as a student under this much-talented teacher Amirjanian. That occurred first because of his nervous and ill-tempered nature toward my brother and me, the issue of the ‘P. Shakar’ (we may tell that story some day), and his behavior on the occasion of the sacrificial death of his stepson. Despite his shortcomings in a betrayal committed to save his skin from the government’s reprisal, for his poetical works and his teaching accomplishments he remains a member of our Pantheon of greats.
After the fire of Van, Amirjanian continued teaching in the parish schools. In serving as an interpreter in the educational authority where he was justly or unjustly under suspicion, he was subjected to an attempt on his life, but fortunately he came out unscathed. Besides being a mentor and a benefactor in education, Amirjanian was also a poet and a satirist. He was prominent mainly in the 60’s and 70’s. He worked also with the “Armenian Knar” group of Moscow where some of his poetry was used. He published his first drama, “The Tragedy of Vartan and Drtad,” in Constantinople in 1857. Though not perfect, it was full of feeling. His second work, “Mrmunchk” [Murmurs], was published in Varak in 1870. It was about a ravished eight-year old daughter of a teacher who was shot and killed, and other victims of crimes committed by Kurds and Turks.
Here is a sampling of his works on protest and rebellion.
Who has ever seen, in the sun of day, in the city, near the door of Van’s mayor,
A Dajig, with long hair and beard, violate a newly blossomed flower of a girl.
A tragedy unsaid, the terror of hell, even the dead stirred in their graves.
An eight-year old virgin violated. Such tragic enormity.
Probe the depths of history over centuries, with thoroughness.
Was there ever so tragic a crime in ages past?
But when you awaken from your deep sleep, what is man, what is life? Let me know.
I shall cry, and murmur in grief, that, alas, life has left us from our land.
Is there life for us, in this crazed world?
In his last lines Amirjanian whips the people for their indifference, and their lamb-like silence and submission. Amirjanian with his own eyes saw the continued massacres of ‘96, and died from the anguish in his heart. What if he had lived, and seen the Great Tragedy of 1915? What would he have done? He would have gone mad, and would surely have had his say in the Armenian Lyric of Moscow with even more powerful words.
Let us give another example of his works, which appeared in the Amenian Lyric of Moscow.
THE EMIGRE FROM VAN TO HIS FRIEND
Let it be, brother, let it be for my heart to go up in flames.
Let it be for my eyes to pour out a flood of bitter tears.
If you have tears, come, and cry as well.
May our tears form a cloud and rain over Armenian fields.
We have left behind suckling young, pitifully helpless.
Alas, brother, we gave them our blood, our days.
We have left our soulmates, head hung low, victim of the wolf ’s fang.
When we had vowed to face death with our soulmates.
Let it be, brother, let it be for my heart ...(Two lines of the first verse repeated)
We have walked much over hill and dale, and crossed their rivers
We are wanderers in our own lands.
Is this a man, or a beast. There is no one to answer.
We give one para for one tear. There are not many takers.
We are man, an Armenian son. We spent our lives in awe and terror.
There is no life for us. We fear death. Our graves will fill with dust.
Sun, dear brother sun, do not scorch our hearts.
[Translator’s note: Several lines have been left untranslated because of the difficulty of understanding the meaning, but the general thought has been given.]
According to H. Yeramian, Amirjanian’s unpublished works were being kept by his son-in-law, Dikran Avakian, but with the 1915 massacres, they are probably lost. Those that have been published are not many; they appear mostly in song books. Yeramian adds that for his environment, Amirjanian can be likened to Euripides. In his “The Educated Emigre” (a drama), which, like a bomb, struck a blow at the monster of the expatriation [forced dispersion] that tore at the life of rural families and the nation.
For his limited environment he was Anacreonitic in his ballads, like Nahabed Kuchak in his lyricism, like Moliere in his comedies, like Aristophanes or Baronian in his satire, With his satire, and his witty wisdom, he sought personal happiness.
His weakness was in monetary matters, especially since others took advantage of him. He was meticulous in his accounting as in American practices, but it was looked upon in the east as stinginess for a teacher or a writer.
No matter what, Amirjanian was certainly one of the most brilliant stars of Van’s intellectuals. The rays he emitted still gleam. As with Khrimian and Srvantzdiants, he remains quite alive in the memory of his compatriots.
HAMPARTZUM YERAMIAN [p 185]
He was born in Van in May 1857, in the St. Hagop parish, a “beautiful, robust, smiling child,” as he describes himself in his “Memoirs” published in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1929, in two volumes. Let us hear his story which is a biography, with people and events.
He first identifies Van as a capital of Urardu or Khaldi. It was the royal city of the Ardzrunian clan, from Kakig to Senekerim, He describes Aygestan, his parish, and the branches of their large family group. He was stricken with smallpox in 1868, when he was 11 years old, losing the sight of both his eyes ... on which he recalls the words of the great French writer Hugo, “most wretched are they who have not the pleasure of the sight of two eyes.” While he says, “But even more wretched are they who have seen light and then lost it.” Then, inconsolable, he feels pain that for sixty years, even educated people, instead of using his name, Yeramian, pitilessly called him “Guyr” [the blind one].
His father, thinking to provide an activity for his unfortunate son, wanted to have him trained as a minstrel, as a source of comfort. But he says that that was not his calling. He says that he loved school, for which “my soul was forever burning. I was being encouraged by Amirjanian, and I was attending the St. Hagop school with the help of others. I was listening to the recitations by my companions and absorbing the knowledge. By the age of 17, I had already savored the Iliad and the Odessey. I lapped up religious works. I had learned the Bible quite well, studied Nareg, and pretty well digested history and geography. My friends would come to my house in turn, and read to me the books that I wanted.” This writer is witness to the truth of all that, for my brothers were among those who helped him.
We would encapsulate the two parts of the first volume of his book by saying, “better to be blind of eye than blind of mind.” Here some briefs from his book, for the sake of becoming acquainted with him.
Part C: The topics that he covered in teaching, in 1870: The fire of Van, the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, the Armenian Question, Portukalian and his teachers’ school, the 1880 famine in Armenia, the administrations of Khrimian and Srvantzdiants, theater, and the works of Dikran Amirjanian.
Part D: Yeramian was the guiding spirit for the St. Hagop Support Society. He gathered about two dozen orphans and took then to the Garmrvori Monastery and gave them education and guidance. They later became teachers in the Yeramian School, which he founded, and they brought much luster to that school. This part concludes with telling of Khrimian’s visit to the school, and the endorsement that he wrote of Yeramian, the last two lines of which were the following.
“My hand,” said Hairig, “my name and tongue, are with you, my son, go forth full of hope.
I leave as your reinforcement for hope and enthusiasm, and your eyes for energetic
help to my wards.”
Part E: Lacking the luxury of sight, Yeramian sought his comfort in the school, the principal purpose of his life, even to the point of selling his house for the benefit of the school. He prepared fine teachers for the intermediate grades, for schools of the Caucasus and Constantinople. In the period of 1878 to 1915, he started first as manager of an orphanage, and then rose to become founder and superintendent of intermediate and high schools.
Part F: He enhanced various local and national programs, of the Catholicoi of Echmiadzin and Aghtamar, of Hairig and Cheraz.
Part G: He traveled in 1886 to the Caucasus, Constantinople, Vanra-Rusjuk, and Vienna, hoping to find a specialist for his eyes who might perform that needed miracle.
Part H: Description of the persecutions in 1887 of vartabeds Arsen and Daniel, Karekin Manugian, imprisonments of Shidanian, terrorism, “British ships cannot rise to Ararat’s peaks, etc.”
Yeramian devoted the later parts of the first volume to the Protestants and their relationship to the missionaries. Included were a historical view of the Armenian revolutionary movement; freedom-seeking tendencies beginning with the Meliks of Khamsa, from Nerses Ashdaragetsi, and until our own times; the renaissance of 1891-1908; and other matters.
We offer here a selection of accounts from the second volume of important persons and events. Leaders of Van. Points of View of Dashnag agents. The sad killing of Krikor Ajemian by one of his relatives. Betrayals by Dashnags, and pillaging. The predictions of Mardiros Akribasian. The Turkish Constitution of 1903-14 and the enthusiasm in Van. The little lad in rags of the care giver. The Cilician tragedy. The Armenian Mebuses. Fine arts. The founder of the Tiflis Genealogical Society. Founder Lalaian in Van. The constructive efforts of Bishop Hovsep Sarajian as diocesan bishop. Efforts at creating harmony by political party leaders in 1913. Yeramian’s second visit to Echmiadzin in 1913, as a representative of the 1500th anniversary celebration there of the discovery the Armenian alphabet. Visits to Baku, Pontus, and Smyrna. The onset of World War I. Description of Madteos Mamurian and the “Eastern Press.” Unable to return to Van, Yeramian went to Egypt. Teaching and supervision in the Kalstian and Nubarian schools of Cairo and Heliopolis. Description of literary and other figures among the Armenians of Egypt. The Republic of Armenia. Persons of Armenia. Antranig in Egypt in 1920. Pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Constantinople, Batum, and return. On his death he was buried in Cairo in 1929. May his memory be blessed.
TEACHER MHER HOVHANNES
He was born in Van in 1815. He studied under vanetsi Patriarch Theodoros, Patriarch of Jerusalem. He returned to Van and became a Paulician against Khrimian. He was a member of the conservative Paulician party. He was an expert philologist, historian, musician, and teacher. He left behind unpublished works consisting of A View of Personalities of Vasburagan, and Chronology in Verse and Prose, a history of the 17th and 18th centuries of Van, and many other literary and historical works. He died in the 70’s. As a teacher in the Norashen school, he produced a number of graduates. After his death, Vartabed Boghos assumed control of his writings, and Vartabed Ghevont Pirzalemian and Khachig Levonian were helped by his works.
He was born in the Ererin village. For a time he taught in Timar. He wrote a Christian Doctrine for use by children. It was published in Echmiadzin during the time of Catholicos Kevork III. His Argument Between Vardan and Vasak was published at Echmiadzin in 1882. Other works were The Tragedy of the Braves of Vardan, a Brief Grammar, A Tragedy Concernig Abel, A Concise Treatise on the Calendar. During the year of his death he wrote articles that appeared in the “Ararat” and “Artzakank” journals.
He was born in Van in 1890. His primary education was received in the Yeramian school, which he completed very successfully. He went to Constantinople and received a diploma in law. It was surprising for that young man with a humble character to became the leader of the famed Students’ Union of Constantinople.
He was arrested on the morning of January 5, 1915. He became sentenced by a military court along with 19 companions, and he was hung at the age of 21 [should be 25, apparently]. He worked with the “Hnchag” and other papers. He edited the Hnchag “Gaydz” monthly, under the pen-name of ”Vanig.”
He was born in Van, in 1844, named Hovhannes at baptism. He was the son of Msrkhan, brother of Hairig. Orphaned as a child, he was cared for by Hairig. Having completed his studies at the Varak seminary he was sent to Germany in 1871 where he studied pedagogy for three years. He moved with his family to the Caucasus to be with Hairig during the first years as Catholicos. After the promulgation of the Constitution in 1908, he returned to Van, and teaching once again. He was imprisoned, and died in 1913 at the age of 69.
During his teaching years, Khoren, with some of his students, made an explorative visit to the villages of the region, mountains and fields, and based on that trip wrote his Primer, containing moral lessons, and information on Armenian facts. Khoren also wrote an Ode to Hairig, when he was leaving Van, in 1865, for Garin. The Ode opened with the following.
“Hairig, Hairig, when we turn our eyes toward the west,
With burning hearts, and longing, we remember you....”
Khoren’s wife, Isguhi, was also well educated, and helpful to the community, as we have mentioned in the section on “Societies of Van.” She worked to advance education .
Longing for Varak
To thee, O charming nest Varak,
May I soar, fly quickly toward my hopes
‘Tis enough that, under foreign stars,
I languish in your memory.
Neither beautiful Bosporus, nor fine Europe,
Can produce fine wheat as thou.
Let me embrace my nest Varak,
Source of my antecedents.
Is there a measure for love, or a measure for the ocean?
Love is infinite, without measure in desire, burning with ancestral love.
Is this desire of mine little, after ten years of wandering?
Let me embrace my nest, Varak, source of my antecedents.
I am now free, O my Varak, my homeland,
Free for thee, to weep for thee, for your ruin, pain, and wounds.
Your need to rise again quickly, so that your wounds will heal,
That I may run and embrace my nest, Varak, my very source.
He obtained his education through native talent, and did much to enhance the local schools. He went to the Caucasus in 1870, and for ten years taught in schools in Tiflis. During the 80’s he returned to Van, and then once again went to Tiflis. He was talented in music and was appointed choirmaster in one of the local Armenian churches until the end of his life in 1921. He had a pleasant personality, and he collected native songs, based on which he wrote “Vana Saz” and a number of other works.
Fired by his deep patriotism he composed two impassioned songs: “Hail to our ancestors’ half-ruined temples,” and especially the following, “It Is Enough, O Sons.”
It is enough, O sons, so many years of tribulation.
Enough of being crushed by the heel of the Turk, and Kurd.
It is enough that we bowed our heads to the wolves,
So heavy was the burden they pressed on our necks.
It is enough. Let us rise, and show that we are free
And filled with the true blood of our Armenian braves.
It is for us to say, for us to act. The land is ours.
We are its true masters.
He was born in the Aliur village of Van, in 1865. His parents had come from the canton of Shidan. His father, Sarkis, took his two sons, Mardiros and Abraham to Constantinople to receive higher education. Abraham graduated from the Central school of Constantinople, and was appointed by the United Society to teach in the Armenian school of Edirne. Years later he was betrayed by a priest as a revolutionary. Abraham found refuge in Bulgaria, and taught in schools of Burgaz and Varna. From there he went to Philippi, where he married. Without being able to fulfill his desire to return to Van he died in 1932, and was buried in Philippi. He left many articles and essays. He wrote “Tiabard” (three volumes), the novels “Avazagabed,” “Aksoragan,” “Vashkharun,” “Madniche,” and “Vanagan.” He also left some unpublished works. He wrote under the pen-name Armen-Shidan.
He went to Constantinople in 1830 where he attended an Italian school and received an education in languages. On returning to Van he joined the Kurdish chief Badrkhan Bey in his revolt against the Ottoman government. For a time he served as advisor to the chief, and, along with a companion, served as protectors of the Armenians of the region. They gathered helpers in the cantons of Shadakh and Mok who collaborated with the Kurdish forces. See Hagop Shambazian’s “Krdahay Badmutiun,” published by the Araks press of Constantinople.