02 April 2003, 11:59

Abovyan, Khachatur

Celebrated Armenian writer, enlightener, democrat, founder of modern Armenian literature and modern literary language, pedagogue, and ethnographer.

Born in 1805 in the village of Kanaker near Erivani (Yerevan) in a noble but poor family. Studied in Etchmiadzin, then in Tiflis - in Nersesyan Seminary, 1924-1826. Graduated from Derpt (now Tartu) University in 1836. Upon return to his homeland in order to start pedagogic activities, he encountered hostility of reactionary Armenian clergy and Czarist officials, for his approach against dogmatism and formalism in high-school pedagogy. In 1837, became a custodian in Tiflis province college; in 1843, transferred to the same position in Yerevan. On April 2 (14), 1848, Abovyan left his home and went missing.

Abovyan's work was of tremendous importance for the national literature. He wrote novels, essays, plays, popular scientific works, poems, and fables. He was the first Armenian juvenile author. Khachatur Abovyan produced his pieces at the time when Armenian literature was soaked with religious spirit and when many Armenian clergymen tried to artificially revitalize dead Ancient Armenian language, Grabar. Abovyan's works are written in modern language, Ashkharabar, understandable to the common people. They are penetrated with democracy. Abovyan is the author of the first Armenian layman novel, Wounds of Armenia, 1841, published in 1858, dedicated to the tragic destiny of the Armenians and their struggle for independence during Russian-Iranian War of 1826-1828. He depicted the severe sufferings of Armenians under the rule of Iranian subjugators. The main idea of the novel that influenced wide circles of Armenian society is a statement of national dignity, patriotism, and hatred towards the enslavers. The novel's character, Agasi, impersonates the free spirit of the nation and its will for struggle with the foreign intruders. To give up one's life, but not one's motherland to the enemy - that is Agasi's and his guerilla friends' motto. Abovyan saw the pledge for national, political, and cultural renaissance of his country in strengthening friendship between Russian and Armenian peoples. Elements of romanticism and realism are intertwined in the novel; the narrative is interrupted with lyrical and journalistic digressions.

Abovyan also wrote popular scientific works Discovery of America, Book of Stories, a fable collection Leisure Time (published in 1864), Bayati collection (published in 1964). He translated into Armenian the masterpieces by Homer, Goethe, Schiller, Karamzin, Krylov, and others.

Khachatur Abovyan is the founder of new Armenian democratic pedagogy. He opposed medieval clerical scholastic formation and education system. He struggled for laic comprehensive (intellectual, moral, labor, and physical) education, for education accessibility, for free tuition for the poor, and for equal education for men and women. Abovyan's distinctive works on pedagogy are: Before the Path reading book, 1938, Russian and Armenian Grammar Book, and novel Story of Tigran, or Moral Admonition for Armenian Children, published 1941. Abovyan was the first to engage in scientific ethnography in Armenia; he studied life and customs of the peasants of his native village of Kanaker and of Yerevan residents, as well as collected and studied Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Kurdish folklore.

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