This Week in Armenian History

Birth of Vertanes Papazian (April 12, 1866)

Vertanes Papazian was a prolific writer who delved into subjects of social and national interest at the turn of the twentieth century. 

He was born in Van, in a priest’s family, on April 12, 1866. He moved to Tabriz, Iran, as a child. After his schooling in Agulis and Tabriz, he studied at the Gevorgian Seminary in Etchmiadzin, but he could not graduate, for he had to start working at the age of fifteen.  

His literary career began at this time in Constantinople, where he lived from 1885 to 1888. He started writing short stories and vignettes about Western life in 1888, which were later published in two volumes in 1891 and 1904. 

Between 1891 and 1895, Papazian studied literature and social sciences at the University of Geneva, while continuing to write novels and short stories. Then he returned to the Caucasus, where he taught for a while. His adventurous nature and curiosity took him to many cities, towns, and villages in the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Iran, collecting popular tales and becoming intimately acquainted with Armenian life and customs in all these different places. He drew on these experiences for material for his stories and novels. 

Papazian’s preferred themes are the relationship between the rich and the poor, and social injustice. His works consisted mainly of novels, short stories, and plays, even though he also wrote tales and vignettes. From a literary point of view, his novels and novellas are the most interesting of his works. His play “The Rock” was one of his best loved plays, a psychological drama about Armenian village life, where the rock represents despotism and tyranny. 

He also edited newspapers, but his main activity was teaching and writing. In the 1910s, he lived again in Constantinople for a short while and on the eve of World War I he left for southern Russian and then to the Caucasus, where he was the principal of a school in Vagharshapat, Armenia, during the war. 

He was a victim of epidemics during the first Republic of Armenia. He passed away in Yerevan on April 26, 1920. Several streets and a school in Yerevan and other cities of Armenia are named after Vertanes Papazian.