Armenian realism as a separate literary direction appeared in the second half of the XIX century, when in 1850-60s the literary generation came to realize many ideological and aesthetic issues that were raised in previous years, but not yet fully resolved. The content of mental activity was expanding, straining the public mind with the ideological debate of the old and the new, and putting forward the demand for a radical overhaul of the church, school, language and literature.
Especially, the struggle of writing got stronger. The issue of a new language was presented as the beginning of everything, an indicator of the nation’s existence and progress. General ascents of public mind made certain preconditions for the development of national literature: the role of literature in the spiritual formation of the nation was growing.
Development of literature in its turn contributed to the formation of literary criticism as an independent field of mental activity. By claiming the national originality of literature, criticism was based largely on the aesthetic principle of literary and historical identity. The process of formation of national literature was accompanied by the mastering of the world artistic experience.
European and especially Russian literature became one of the important means for spiritual and moral development of people, a circumstance that stimulated the expansion of translation activity.
In 1850-60s, Armenian literature was characterized by two main directions: romanticism and realism in parallel existence, which expanded the expressive means of literature by developing a variety of genres. Especially was needed creating a novel.
Transition from classicism to romanticism, with a unique transformation marked in dramaturgy. Historical tragedy was transformed to historical-romantic drama, creating a genre type, which characterized the stylistic combination of classicism and romanticism.
In addition to historical-romantic drama was also developed the social-everyday comedy of the realistic direction. In vodevil and comedy period the morals of philistine environment were presented. Generalization of artistic experience of realistic dramaturgy came from the works of G. Sundukyan(1825-1912).
In 1850-60s the leading genre of Armenian literature was poesy. Liberated from the rationalistic rules of classism, lyricism was enriched by the motives of nature love and longing.
At the heart of lyrical thoughts is the homeland as the beginning of spiritual life. Poesy assimilates to music and there is a national song melody everywhere. This romantic of feeling was a reaction to patriotic romance, which at the time Armenian lyricism was infused with an Armenian pathos. M. Nalbandyan became the central figure of Armenian literature of this period, who left a rich literary heritage: genres of poesy, artistic prose, literary criticism and oration. His role was unique in the development of oration.
In 1870-90s the leading genre of literature was prose. In particular the novel was of great social value, which generalizing artistic experience of the time, answered to the urgent questions of the time. Development of the novel accompanied the expansion of the structural and content system.
In addition to the comprehensive structure of the “national novel”, the thematic novel was also formed: social, political, domestic, historical and so on. The cycle was going on with new appropriations of artistic experience of romanticism and realism. Leaders of prose were Raffi, Paronyan, Proshyan, Axhayan, who expanded the scope of reality inclusion, raised social, national and moral-philosophical questions. The founder of classic story was Cerents (Hovsep Shishmanyan, 1822-88).
In 1870-80s Raffi (Hakob Meliq-Hakobyan, 1835-88) was the central figure of literature. With his artistic works, publicity and critical articles, he recorded all the vital issues of the time, highlighted urgent issues of social and national-political status, directed the mental and literary movement.
In 1870-80s, realistic direction in Armenian literature revealed artistic method’s transition from enlightenment didactics to social analysis. Especially it feels to Srvandztyan, Proshyan, Ghukasyan. Paronyan is a great aesthete of satirical direction of Armenian realism.
In the mid-1880s replacing ideas with programmatic directions came to the exploration of life, exposing the inner life of the people, their national structure and their character. General aspiration of science revealed the wealth that Armenian people had invested in human history.
The folklore collected, coordinated the spiritual treasures preserved in people’s memory. Muratsan (Grigor Ter – Hovhannisyan, 1854-1908), an Armenian late romanticist, gave a unique shade to the literature of the period.
Realistic literal movement gave some direction for the development of artistic genres. There were making first attempts in dramaturgy for creating social-psychological drama.
From national to popular and from idea to spirit was the aesthetic meaning of the new direction of poesy. Appropriating rich traditions of national poem and improving upon artistic achievements of world poetry, the new generation of poets brought Armenian poetry to an unprecedented level of development, expanded the world of their motives, improved the technique, enriched with different types of genres. Especially significant was the artistic elaboration of forms of poetry-poem, balled and legend.
Artistic experience of realistic method put the development of prose on new paths. Overcoming the didactic of romanticism and enlightening realism, classical realism brought in literature anatomical exploration of society through its complex connections and relationships. Social criticism of the previous literary methods was supplemented by social analysis.
The literary hero’s class moved from top to bottom. Realism revealed still unknown human masses, and enriched literature with a variety of types, image and characters. The main problem of literature became people’s destiny.
Especially it was reflected in the works of Papazyan, Leo, Tigran Kamsarakan, Arpiaryan and Levon Bashalyan.
In 1880-90s, “the literary school” gave a unique shade to the realistic prose. Being, in their calling, more agrarian apostates than aesthetics, the members of this movement in their imagery capture the disruption of rural life by the penetration of capitalist relations, the collapse of patriarchal community.
Armenian classical realism has achieved great success in the works of Shirvanzade, Zohrap and Nar-Dos.