Avetik Sahak Isahakyan (alternate spelling: Avedik Issahakian)
– famous Armenian poet, writer, academician, member of
the Armenian Academy of Sciences and a prominent public figure.
Born October 19 (31), 1875, in Kazarapat, near Alexandropol (present
day Giumri), Armenia.
Isahakyan began his formal education at St. Etchmiadzin Gevorgyan
seminary (1889-92). In 1893 he attended classes at Leipzig University
as a non-matriculated student. He started his literary as well as
political careers in his early youth. Upon his return from Leipzig
in 1895 he entered the ranks of the newly established Alexandropol
committee of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation; through his
activities supported armed groups and financial aid sent to the
Western Armenia from Alexandropol. He was arrested in 1896 and spent
a year in Yerevan’s prison.
Upon his release from the prison, 1897, he published first compilation
of his poems “Songs and Wounds”, however soon was arrested
again for his activities “against Russia’s Tsar”
and sent to Odessa. The lyricism, emotional charge and melody of
his poems earned him immediate popularity. His best works are filled
with sorrow and lament meditations about the fate of the humanity,
injustice of life. His compositions are penetrated with love to
one’s motherland and people. Later Isahakyan went abroad,
where in Zurich University attended Literature and History of Philosophy
classes. He returned to his homeland in 1902 and then moved to Tiflis.
Between 1899-1906 he wrote “The Songs of Haiduks”,
a compilation of poems that became the first creation within the
classical Armenian poetry dedicated to the Armenian freedom struggle.
In 1908 Avetik Isahakyan, with 158 other Armenian intellectuals,
was arrested and after spending half a year in Tiflis’s Metekha
prison (just like H. Toumanyan)
he was freed on bail. Staying in Caucasus was not possible any longer
and by 1911 Isahakyan had emigrated.
Not for a moment did he ever believe in the deceiving promises
made by the government of the Young Turks regarding self-government
and autonomy of the Western Armenia. Isahakyan, assured that the
danger of Panturkism, which was aimed at total extinction of Armenians,
could be prevented by Turkey’s supporter, the Kaiser’s
Germany, went to Berlin where with a number of German intellectuals
participated in German-Armenian movement and edited the group’s
journal “Mesrob.” The start of the First World War and
the horrifying massacres had confirmed his gruesome predictions
about the annihilating nature of the Young Turks government’s
policies. After the war and the genocide, Isahakyan described through
his compositions the sorrow destiny and Armenians’ heroic
struggle for freedom. The poet put forward the accusations of the
Armenian Genocide, of which the worst part had taken place between
1915-1922, in “The White Book.” At that period of time
Isahakyan expressed his ideas mainly through his social and political
articles in which he discussed the topics of the Armenian cause,
reunification of Armenia and the restoration of the Armenian government.
The images of the massacres are persistent in his poems like “Snow
has Covered Everything…”, “To Armenia…”,
and “Here Comes Spring Again.”
A symbolical story portraying the Armenian politics and Armenian
cause of the 19th early 20th centuries must have been “Usta
Karo,” an unfinished novel, the work on which had accompanied
the writer through all his life. “Usta Karo will be done on
the day when the Armenian cause is resolved, “- used to say
the master himself. Ishakyan could not get used the idea of a dismembered
Armenia. With a deep emotional pain and bitterness in his heart
he continued to believe that a time would come when Armenian people
would return their native shores.
Ishakyan returned to the Soviet Armenia in 1926 where he published
a new collection of his poems and stories (e.g. “A Pipe of
Patience” -1928). Between 1930 and 1936 he lived abroad where
he acted as a friend of the Soviet Union. He later had finally moved
back to Armenia where he continued his enormous social work. Among
his works of that time are famous “Our historians and Our
Minstrels” 1939; “To my Motherland” 1940; “Armenian
Literature” 1942; “Sasna Mher” 1937.
During the Second World War of 1941-1945, he wrote patriotic poems
like “Martial Call,” 1941; “My Heart is at the
Mountains’ Top,” 1941; “To the Undying Memory
of S.G. Zakyan,” 1942; “The Day of the Great Victory,”
1945 and many other. He was awarded with the state prize in 1946.
He was a member of the Soviet Committee for Protection of Peace.
Between 1946 and 1957 he was the Chairman of the Writers’
Union of the Republic of Armenia.
His creative work, filled with humanism, and a great respect to
the human dignity, is deeply connected with the history and culture
of the Armenian people, embracing the best traditions of the Russian
and the World literature. The Russian poet A. Blok characterized
him as “the first class poet, fresh and simple, whom one,
perhaps, cannot find in Europe anymore.”
Isahakyan’s works have been translated in many languages
and his poems have been used as lyrics for new songs.
Avetik Isahakyan was a deputy of the II-IV Supreme Soviets of the
Armenian SSR. He was awarded with two orders of Lenin and medals.
Avetik Isahakyan died October 17, 1957 in Yerevan.