Ashot N. Hayruni
In the second half of the 19th century during the process of the search for a national salvation, Raffi also had to take into consideration and reflect upon economic problems, which, under foreign tyranny, in the face of increasing pressure on the Armenian people, had not only economic, but also political significance. Hence, it was not by chance, that these economic problems occupied a key place in Raffi’s works.
This article sheds light on the economic hardships faced by the Armenian people during this time and Raffi’s ideological views on how to solve these problems.
Raffi reflected upon the Armenian merchant and usurer class and gave a factual outline of key aspects that were common to the above noted class. He pointed out that this class was unable to evolve and establish the new economic conditions that were needed. As such, he proposed the creation of a new “scientific trade”, which would be based upon a harmonious blend of professional education and national-moral values, which according to Raffi was necessary to overcome the growing economic problems of this period.
The writer also placed a great deal of importance on the idea of giving “free land” to the toilers, which according to him, had to be realized by the Armenian Church and political institutions and thus could prevent the growing emigration of Armenian peasantry from its native land.
Raffi presented these and many other similar ideas on solving the Armenian economic vows, in not only his public articles, but as well as his literally works, in which he made many of the leading characters his mouthpieces for examining these issues.
Raffi juxtaposes Petros Masisyan (“Golden Rooster”), Chanchur Ivanich (“Zahrumar”), Agha Paronov (“One like this, the other like that”), and his other literary characters representing this class, with other characters, who he tasks with not only presenting solutions to the economic problems, but also developing new economic relations within the Armenian reality. These characters, including Mikayel (“Golden Rooster”) and Ruben Arusyan (“One like this, the other like that”), are imbued with a sense of morality and after acquiring highly professional training, through their actions show the way for the establishment of what Raffi calls “scientific trade”. These characters are also endowed with a moral compass of wanting to serve the national interests of the Armenian society at large. They believe that wealth, first and foremost, is for the common good and by conducting fair trade and business, they also advance Armenian cultural life by doing charity work for countless Armenian social projects and helping members of the intelligentsia. Through their actions, they affirm the important bond that unites “scientific trade” with the highest interests of the people and the homeland, with the latter being given primacy and preference by the author. Thus, Raffi considers an important prerequisite for the establishment of new economic reality the harmonious merger of professional training with a sense of personal morality.
The establishment of “scientific trade” along with the development of new economic methods are closely intertwined with Raffi’s views on school reform and in this regard, these two aspects complete each other. The author’s advanced knowledge of different professional trades is astonishing. When the situation presents itself, Raffi shows himself to be an agriculturalist, an economist and if required, also a theoretician and researcher who examines the problems associated within the given profession.