The beginning of modern Armenian literature was connected with 2 big historical-political events- the end of 1st World War (1914-1918) and restoration of Armenian statehood. In 1918 western Armenian literature transited into Diaspora Armenian literature. Around 9 decades of historical development modern Armenian literature had a difficult and contradictory path, which was conditioned by the patterns of public-political life in country, had both years of rise and fall. Soviet Armenian literature could preserve traditions and spirit of centuries. In 1918 with the restoration of Armenian statehood began new era of historical and cultural life. Under the leadership of minister of Public Education and Art of the republic Nikol Axbalyan was established Armenian literary company, organized literary and cultural events, published books, but at the result of the collapse of the first republic many projects were not implemented.
Armenian literature in 1920-40s
In the early years of 1920-30s in the Socialist Soviet Republic of Armenia developmental ways of artistic literature had been mentioned. A radical revolution in the life of the people dictated the development of a new feature of fiction, but the most urgent question became the problem of the creative staff. Some of senior writers had left arena or had been abroad (Nar-Dos, Isahakyan, Shirvanzade), Grigor Zohrap, Daniel Varujan, Ruben Sevak, Siamanto and many others were victims of the Great Genocide. The most important event of the literary movement was “Three’s” group, founded by Charents, Abov and Vshtuni: in 1992 14th of June in the daily newspaper “Soviet Armenia” was published aesthetic article “Three’s Declaration”.
Following the general patterns of worldwide and Russian literary developments like proletarians and futurist they rejected the artistic legacy of the past. The most typical features of this movement were the desire to say something new in content and form, the requirement to embody a new artistic language, searching methodical ways of literary development. For that reason first of all they rejected classical traditions. After splitting “Three’s”, literary movement was justified in proletarian groups. Core of literary groups and activity of their periodicals was the creation of mass literature. The Association of Writers of Soviet Armenia also assumed such a role. There also had been Armenian literary company, “Noyember”, Union writers of Armenian fiction literature workers. In the early twenties the problem of material possibility of new Armenian literature became a priority.
Though new government was facing difficulties, took all measures for the development of the literature. Despite the lack of extensive publishing opportunities, year after year in Soviet Armenia was increasing list of books and printing. In 20-30s group self-isolation became a great problem for literary development. In this situation Committee of the Communist Party of Soviet Union published decision about the reconstruction of literary fiction organizations, according to which writers also united under one organization in Armenia.
From August 1, 1934, to 8 the first congress of Armenian writers took place, where was formed Writers’ Union. It operates to this day. The development of the Armenian literature of that period was characterized by the process of overcoming “national isolation”, in which was decisive the role of Russian literature. From the end of 20s Armenian literature was gradually expanding the range of all-Union circulation. In 30s translation work was gaining new momentum, which was influenced by the visits of the creative brigades of Russian writers to Armenia.
The main questions of the literature of these years were about differences between the old and the new, economic growth of Armenia, people’s relationships, village and city, new life and the issues of social transformation of the country, which have found a direct response in poetry, prose and drama. New poetic searches had been reflected in the works of Charents, Vshtuni, Abov, Mahari, Alazan. At the same period prose was influenced by stories and novels of Bakunc, Zoryan, Demirchyan, Movses Araz. In the area of satire great success had achieved
Ler Kamsar, Matevos Darbinyan. Charents, Mahari and Demirchyan made the first attempts in theatrical performance. Since the middle of 1920s a deep and meaningful picture of life had been important, a struggle had been fought against already rooted and deepening ideological schematism.
There had been debates over these issues, and the classic values of the modern period of Armenian literature had been created. Description of the writer of modern period was formed, and art literature had gained 2 main ways for the development: on the one hand faithful writers to the national traditions and high demands of art, on the other, all those who make literature a prose and prose verse in political or social-economic slogans. First ones were punished, imprisoned, deported or were shot, second ones were sponsored, rewarded.
There had been some changes in the assessment of literary heritage in the early 30’s. The peak of appreciation for past art monuments was the celebration of the 1000th anniversary of “Sasuntci David” epic (1939). On the one hand cosmopolitism, abstract technology and vulgar sociology had been opposed, on the other hand country, national traditions, human psychology. At the result on one side were the ideological “devotees” of the country and literature, on the other side “nationalists”, “the enemies of the people”. Charents, Bakunc, Totovenc and many others fell victim to this devastating struggle, Mahari, Esayan, Ler Kamsar and many others were deported. It had artificially disrupted the normal development of literature and the ranks of writers had been supplemented by socialism construction, collectivist movement, second-rate writers praising industrial success or ashugs praising the worship of a person.
Armenian Literature during Second World War
During Second World War and the next decades Armenian literature becomes ideological weapon for the protection of homeland, and also for propping up soldiers and glorifying the feat.
From the first days of war, in regional and front newspapers of Armenia, classic writers were mentioned with glorifying their idioms about heroism, patriotism and mother language, and the pages of national history. Writers showed the call of love and hate, one of them was Av.Isahakyan’s ,,Battle call” June 29,1941.In the visual system of literature there were included curses and call of hate, the call to fight and message of vendetta, as well as blessings and wishes, heroism praise and the call for protection of their native land .At the first line of battle were poems (N.Zaryan, H.Shiraz, G.Boryan, S.Vahuni, T.Huryan, G.Saryan).The main theme of poems became the inner world of fighting soldiers. Even though being reinforced lyrical principle poetry did not lose the combat emphasis at all for new quality. The statement “frontal lyricism” was separated from others for new quality. The parts of moral sense of war were found not only in the “frontal” but also in “backyard lyricism”. The Soviet-Armenian poem that made the picture of the homeland, returned to its origins, creating a place for the symbols of landscapes and national history, and for country’s unique ornament. It became more visible in the works of D.Demirchyan , Kh.Dashtents, V.Khechumyan.
Continuing the basic principles of artistic speech of 1920-1930s related to the development pattern of county`s social-political life, post-war literature revealed remarkable peculiarities of literal creativity. In 1946 the second congress of Writer`s Union of Armenia took place in which participated also Diaspora Armenians. It proclaimed the slogan of “One nation one literature”. Soviet Union Commune`s decisions also determined some formulas, to reinforce literature life with real life, to strengthen the civil content of artistic speech, to keep in focus actuality, not to be addicted with coloration of history. Simultaneously patriotism was banned again, national subject, ideas that were adapted to schematic mottoes were prioritized. Old and new literary forces that were similar to this lifeless schematics, colored the depicted life. As a result, there were created works lack of artistic value. Again with persecution, blame, slander, censorship, a heavy atmosphere dominated the art, literature and science.
At that time a new generation of writers develops. Works of Silva Kaputikyan, M.Margaryan, Gevorg Emin, H.Sahyan, P.Sevak, S.Khanzadya, V.Ananyan are published.
Armenian literature from 1954 to 1989
In 1954 after denunciation and overcoming of individual worship Armenian literature enters a new phase. Such national principles were restored as history, popularity, vital foundation for traditions, free innovation that promotes speech. Human being is presented with his personal life, subtle thoughts and feelings.
Along with a comprehensive picture of modern individual, the needed principles of Soviet Literature were laid new foundations (understanding of the civil debt of the writer, simple speech sonority). They were based on such an important question as connection of real life and historical fate of time with the full depth of socio-psychology. Poets wrote about issues related to development of Fine Art. Interesting debates took place in the press about all this, clarifying the attitude towards such problems as traditional and innovational, national and nationwide, up-to-date understandings and outdated perceptions, civil emphasis and philosophical economics, personal and non-personal life in arts.
Old medieval and modern values of literature were restored, the works of Charents, Bakunts and others` Western Armenian literary values, more attention was paid to Diaspora Armenian literature G.Mahary, Ler Kamsar, V.Norents and other writers returned from exile. The representatives of the older generation continued their poetic journey. V.Norents S.Tarontsi V.Alazyan G.Boryan M.Khkryan Kh.Dashtents K.Zaryan M.Vesper A.Grashi and others came up with new books and poetry series. P.Sevak`s and H.Shiraz`s poetry gained popularity.
The innovative breath as well as the continuation of literary traditions to art, brought extensive opportunities in the works of other representatives of that generation. A number of books of S.Kaputikyan V.Davtyan G.Emin M.Marmaryan T.Hovhannisyan were published. Artistic thinking appeared more traditional and natural in H.Sahyan`s poetry.
Armenian poetry developed not only in the sense of poetry but also Fine art. Time and human understandings were seen in all possible measurements. A few points were particularly important which were about the Armenian people and the understanding of time and century. Armenian poetry developed in all genres and was spread to other counties through translations. From the end of 50s to 40-70s in Armenian poetry appeared new names such as R.Davoyan, L.Duryan A.Sahakyan N.Mikaelyan.
The artistic prose also expanded its scope. The long journey of their creative life ended D.Demirchyan A.Zoryan M.Aragy Ler Kmasar.New writers appeared (H.Matevosyan M.Galshoyan V.Petrosyan Z.Kalapyan A.Ayvazyan R.Hovsepyan P.Zeytuntsyan H.Melkonyan V.Grigoryan 1942 and others) who gave new directions to the Armenian epic.
The prose mastered a very rich and extensive artistic material, Armenians` past lives since old times. Historical fiction developed during these years. The artistic image of the world of Armenia was created, the story of which was a continuous process of tragedy and heroism. From this point V.Khechumyan`s novels and novelettes are so remarkable that they depict the lives of medieval writers and illustrators. S.Khanzadyan H.Khachatryan and M.Shatiryan reffered to historical figures and events.
The subject of the novel became the story of the recent past of the Armenians (Genocide and generally the Armenian life in the beginning of the century(H.Kotchar G.Mahary A.Alajajyan Kh.Dashtents M.Galshoyan and others)). The prose also captures the history of the modern life of the Armenians which includes Diaspora life and Armenian life. In prose were also included such phenomena of social-political life of county that had been curtained during the years of individual worship.
Dramaturgy was presented by the works of G.Boryan, A.Papayan, G.Ter-Grigoryan, J.Harutyunyan G.Yaghjyan, M.Shahinyan, L.Karagyozyan, L.Mikaelyan had their contribution in dramaturgy. Together with proses Z.Kalapanyan and P.Zeytuntsyan wrote about modern life. Reality with new situations and relations of the everyday life and working life. There were also published lots of prose and poetical books devoted to child and teenager readers.
The 1971-85s were known for a number of features, first of all for highly artistic researches which was defined as stagnation period, opposition movement. Speaking about persecution, chaos, shootings of 1937 and 1949 was banned. Grouping and unhealthy struggle came to an end. In 1969 P.Sevak`s “Eghitsi luys” was put under arrest. Gradually they began to attack reaching leadership positions. Nevertheless, the writers who strengthened their position beared that trials.
Translated by Lilit Araqelyan
and Ashkhen Kirakosyan