This Week in Armenian History

Birth of Vahagn Davtian (August 15, 1922)

Vahagn Davtian belonged to that generation, along with poets Hamo Sahian, Silva Kaputikian, Maro Margarian, Hrachia Hovhannisian, Paruyr Sevak, and others, who entered the literary field around the years of World War II and found their own voice after the death of Stalin as they tried to restore the foundations of traditional poetry that had been shattered during the “cult of personality.”

Davtian was born in Arabkir (Western Armenia), on August 15, 1922. At the age of four, like the remaining Armenian survivors in town, he moved with his family via Trabzon to Krasnodar, in the northern Caucasus. In the 1930s, the Arabkirtsis relocated to Yerevan and founded the neighborhood of Nor Arabkir. In 1932, Vahagn Davtian, his mother, and sister settled in the Armenian capital, and his father joined them later.

The future poet had his first publication in 1935. After graduating from school, he was sent to the army. After the German attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, he participated in World War II and was wounded. He was discharged and sent back home. He entered Yerevan State University and graduated in 1948. A year before, he had published his first collection of poetry, “First Love.” In 1949 he became a member of the Writers Union of Armenia.

After working for nine years (1945-1954) at the youth newspaper “Avangard,” in 1954 Vahakn Davtian became editorial secretary and in 1962 editor in chief of “Grakan Tert,” the weekly of the Writers Union. In 1961, his fifth volume, the poem “The Thondrakians,” earned him literary fame, which grew with successive collections of poetry in the next two decades. He published nineteen collections of poetry in his life, three collections of articles and memoirs, et cetera. He had a very prolific pen; he published about a thousand articles in the press. He also translated many works of poetry into Armenian by Russian and non-Russian authors.

After the creation of the Committee for Cultural Relations with Armenians Abroad (1964), in 1965 Davtian was the founding editor-in-chief of its weekly, “Hayreniki Dzayn.” He held this position until 1967, when he became vice-president of the Committee. He earned the State Prize of Armenia in 1977 and the literary prize “Yeghishe Charents” two years later.

In 1981 he became editor-in-chief of the Committee monthly, “Sovetakan Hayastan” (Soviet Armenia), which was renamed “Veratznvatz Hayastan” (Armenia Reborn) in 1989, until its demise in 1990. Between 1991 and 1994 he was president of the Writers Union of Armenia. In 1986 he had been elected corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences of Armenia, becoming full member in 1996.

Vahagn Davtian passed away on February 21, 1996, in Yerevan. He was buried in the Komitas Pantheon. The school 149 of Yerevan and the park of Nor Arabkir bear his name, as well as a street in the same neighborhood.