Avetik Isahakyan was one of Armenia’s greatest poets. The writer, academician, and the public figure’s legacy is visible in his works and poems.
Avetik Isahakyan was born in Alexandrapol (now Gyumri) on October 30, 1875.
- His childhood was spent in the village of Ghazarapat.
- He received elementary education in Alexandrapol and at Haritch monastery.
- He studied at the Gevorgian seminary in Etchmiadzin from 1889-1892.
- He later continued his education at the University of Leipzig, where he studied in the department of literature and philosophy.
- Starting his literary and political careers at a young age, Avetik Isahakyan’s eventful life has been the foundation on which people named the first public library after him.
- His house-museum was opened on October 31, 1963, a day after his 88th birthday.
Avetik Isahakyan began writing poems in his early youth
After completing his education at the University of Leipzig, he returned to Alexandrapol in 1895 and became a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) committee.
He was a supporter of armed groups and financial aid that was sent to Western Armenian from Alexandrapol.
Avetik Isahakyan’s activities included propagandistic-campaign work, purchasing of funds and weapons, organizing volunteers detachments.
He was arrested in 1896 and served in Yerevan’s provincial prison for a year. After his release, Isahakyan studied literature and history of philosophy at the University of Zurich.
Avetik Isahakyan first poems were published in 1897: “Songs and Wounds”, “My Fairy”, “I Was a New-Blown Flower”, “Would You Like Me to Be Dew of Sorrow?”, “Shushan Maiden, I Am Your Slave”.
The collection marked the beginning of his work. The biggest themes of Avetik Isahakyan’s works are love, lust, adoration towards one’s motherland and mother.
His museum and the library named after him underline the themes he used in his poems.
Isahakyan was exiled to Odessa in 1898. After his exile, the ARF member wrote poems and verses devoted to the national-liberation struggle that were published in Droshak magazine.
He wrote under the pseudonym “Armenian Gusan”. He later relocated to Tiflis.
Isahakyan, along with 160 other Armenian intellectuals (among them Hovhannes Tumanyan), was arrested in 1908 and spent half a year in Metekha prison.
They were imprisoned for the ARF case. He was set free on bail. He emigrated in fear of political persecution in 1911.
Avetik Isahakyan’s greatest poems were written in the 1910s
Avetik Isahakyan wrote his famous poem “Abu-Lala Mahari”. The hero of the poem is a man who bears tragedy, human pain and suffering.
Abu Lala Mahari,
The renowned poet of Baghdad,
Lived for decades in the splendid city of the Caliphs,
Enjoying a life of luxury and delight.
He sat at banquets with affluent and powerful people,
Debating both the learned and the wise,
He cherished and assessed his companions.
He visited the lands of many a nation,
He saw and studied the peoples and their laws.
And his discerning soul, comprehending people, assessed and hated
Profoundly man and his rules.
And since he had no wife or children,
He gave away his entire fortune to the poor,
Gathered his caravan of camels, along with provisions and food,
And one night, when Baghdad slept on the cypress-covered
Banks of the Tigris –
He departed from the city in secret…
His unfinished novel “Master Karo”’s (Usta Karo) first version was written in this period as well. During the new period of the Armenian prose, this novel was a complicated phenomenon.
He worked on the novel throughout his literary life. The symbolic story portrayed Armenian politics and the Armenian cause.
Isahakyan himself commented on the novel: “Usta Karo will be done on the day when the Armenian cause is resolved.”
He believed in the cause until his very last day.
Avetik Isahakyan did more than just writing poems, the political activist engaged in activities that we learn about in his museum and library.
Isahakyan went to Berlin as he believed that the dangers of Panturkism could be prevented by Germany. He, along with German intellectuals, took part in the German-Armenian movement and co-founded the German-Armenian Society.
When WWI broke out, his suspicions of the Young Turk’s nature were confirmed.
Isahakyan wrote about the tragic fate of the Armenian Genocide and the struggle for freedom. He spoke of the genocide accusations from 1915-1922 in “The White Book”.
Avetik Isahakyan expressed his thoughts through political and social articles. He spoke of the Armenian cause, reunification of Armenia and the restoration of the Armenian government.
His poems “Snow Has Covered Everything…”, “To Armenia…” and “Here Comes Spring Again” describe the horror of the massacres.
He stayed in France in 1930, but returned to Armenian SSR in 1936. He was elected to the Academy of Sciences of the Armenian SSR in 1943 and became the president of the Writers Union of the Armenian SSR in 1944.
He died on October 17, 1957, aged 81 and is buried at Komitas Pantheon. His portrait is on the 10,000-dram bill.
The House-Museum of Avetik Isahakyan was a gift to the writer for his contributions to the country and poems
The Government of Armenia decided to give a house to Avetik Isahakyan on his 70th anniversary in 1945. Pertchanoush Msrian was the architect of the building.
Isahakyan’s wish was for it to be constructed with black polished tufa. The two-story house resembles an Armenian chapel thanks to its triangle-cupola and entrance porch.
The building has a small balcony under the arched stone roof of the second floor. A larger summer balcony exists in the backyard with a garden decorating it.
The poet lived in the house with his family since 1946. His death in 1958 marked the transformation of the house into a memorial museum.
This immortalized Avetik Isahakyan’s poems and literary legacy. The House-Museum of Avetik Isahakyan was opened on October 31, 1963.
Over the years, the museum of the poet has undergone some changes. New rooms were built. In the back area of the second floor exist a big hall and studies.
The wooden balcony and staircase were faced with stone. The museum has been renovated twice. Currently, the exposition is the third one.
The memorial museum is one of the famous cultural centers in Armenia. It is more than just a museum, various events take place there.
Scientific readings, musical events, debates, book presentations, open lessons, concerts, exhibitions, meetings are no strangers to the building.
The first public library of Yerevan was named after Avetik Isahakyan
The first public library was opened on August 15, 1935, but it wasn’t until 1955 that it was named after the writer. On Avetik Isahakyan’s 80th birthday, the library was renamed after him.
After Yerevan Municipality’s decision in 1998, the library also became the method bibliographical center of the Yerevan Community Libraries.
The library is more than just a place to borrow books. Foreign language courses are organized there to improve your skills.
There are 3 corners:
- The American Corner
- The British Center
- the Center of Francophone.
Other than attending foreign language classes, you can go to their movie club and book club.
Being more than just a name of a library and a museum, Avetik Isahakyan’s poems are loved by many.
Isahakyan’s poems have been translated into many languages and his poems have been used as lyrics.
The Wind Is Howling Through The Winter Night
The wind is howling through the winter night,
Like to a pack of angry wolves that cry.
My hapless willows bend before its might;
Their broken branches in the garden lie.
Alas, my heart, thy love since childhood’s days
Hath wept; thy dream was understood by none.
Seek not in vain a friend to know thy ways-
The soul is born eternally alone.
Thou from thy hopeless heart that love shalt cast-
That child of earth, false, illegitimate:
Shalt fling it to the night and wintry blast-
Out in the storm- there let it find its fate.
There motherless and orphaned let it weep,
And let the wind its sobbings onward bear
Unto some desert place, or stormy deep-
But not where human soul its voice may hear.
The wind is howling in its agony
All through this snow-bound night, with piercing cry;
Alas, beneath the broken willow tree
My shattered love lies dying- let it die.
I Can See Them
In the quiet dusk I see it.
The thin smoke rising from my father’s house.
Outside the willows sway. And in dark corners
invisible crickets start their song.
I can see my mother in that lamplight.
Her grandchild climbs into her lap to sleep.
And as she rocks my baby
I know that silently she prays:
First for God’s hand to touch every hurt,
every sickbed, every traveler far from home.
And then for him to guide
her son, her wandering boy.
Sweet smoke rises from my father’s house.
My mother prays, my child sleeping in her arms.
The cricket in invisible corners
sings to the cool willows as they sway.
One day in the desert a bedouin
looked up and saw a mirage shimmering
ahead. Not water, but the splendor
of a dazzling girl.
In the thirsty, burning desert
among dry thorns, under a shadowless sun
he tried to reach her but instead
of that marvelous love he found death.
In his immaterial, immortal sleep
he still saw the splendor of that girl shimmering ahead, an eternal mirage.
And in his endless dream he began to walk looking for her.
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