Perch Zeytuntsian was an Armenian playwright, screenwriter, and novelist who served as the first Minister of Culture of Armenia in post-Soviet times.
Zeytuntsian was born in Alexandria, Egypt in on July 18, 1938. During the repatriation of Armenians in the aftermath of World War II (1946-1948), he moved to Soviet Armenia with his family in 1948. He attended the Ghazaros Aghayan School in Yerevan, from where he graduated in 1956 with a gold medal. He was still a high school student when he published his first short story in 1953. At the age of eighteen, he published his first collection of short stories, His First Companion, followed by a steady flow of narrative (short stories, novellas, and novels), including Sounds of Our Neighborhood (1959), After Us (1963), For Paris (1965), Claude Robert Eatherly or a Twentieth-Century Legend (1968), Arshak the Second (1977), The Last Dawn (1989), and The Stolen Snow (1995). He also translated works of Graham Greene and Ernest Hemingway, among others.
He first graduated from the remote courses of the Institute of Foreign Languages in Piatigorsk (Russia) in 1963 and then followed advanced screenwriting courses in Moscow in 1963-1964. Upon his return to Yerevan, Zeytuntsian worked at the Armenfilm cinema studio from 1965-1968, later becoming the senior editor of the art film section of the Yerevan studio for television films from 1968-1975. Frunze Dovlatian’s movie, Chronicle of Yerevan Days (1973), was based on his screenplay.
Between 1975 and 1986, Perch Zeytuntsian was secretary of the board of the Writers Union of Armenia. He wrote his first theatrical work, The Saddest Man, in 1974. The work was a tragicomedy staged in Yerevan, and since then, eleven of his plays were produced and later published in Armenia. Those included The Legend of the Ruined City (1975), The Call of the Gods (1981), Unfinished Monologue (1981), The Great Silence (1984), All Rise, The Court is in Session (1988), Born and Died (1995), Khor Virap (1999), among others.
The relationship between the individual, the society, and the exercise of authority has been a recurrent theme in Zeytuntsian’s novels. Many of his plays draw their subject matter from episodes of Armenian history that are relevant to contemporary issues. His novel The Last Dawn and four of his plays, including All Rise, The Court Is In Session and The Great Silence, explored themes of the Armenian Genocide.
He was editor-in-chief of the monthly Pioner in 1986-1990 and received the title of Emeritus Worker of Culture of Armenia in 1989. He became the first Minister of Culture of the Republic of Armenia after the independence (1991-1992). He received myriads of accolades, including the State Prize of Armenia (1999), several decorations, and the title of honorary citizen of Yerevan in 2005. A prolific writer, he also published two collections of essays on social and political issues.
Zeytuntsian passed away in Yerevan on August 21, 2017.