On the occasion of the 200th birth anniversary
Vardan G. Devrikyan
A comparative examination of the prose and verse literary works of Ghevond Alishan (1820-1901), editions of the original texts of medieval Armenian literature, as well as of works on historical geography and various historical issues shows that Alishan’s historiographical perceptions and his principles of choosing different topics in Armenian history were formed through the literary publications of “Bazmavep” in 1840-1850, then continued with various scientific and textological works.
The summary of Alishan’s more than half a century of scientific and literary activity became “Hayapatum”, in which Alishan presents the course of Armenian historiography from the pre-Mashtots period to the 18th century within the scientific understandings of the time, especially Movses Khorenatsi’s “Armenian History” defending against the negative hypercriticism of the time.
The worldview which conditioned Alishan’s scientific methodology and historical contemplation was formed in the Mkhitarist environment, where the centuries-old consecrated, sanctified notion that paradise used to be in Armenia and life originated and was restored for the second time after the flood underwent certain systematization.
This theory called “Paradise of Armenia”, which has become a unique national ideology, instilled in several generations of Armenians around the world the idea that the Armenian people have a mission to reclaim their homeland – the newly renovated paradise planted by God, and to rebuild it.
The volumes on the four provinces of Armenia – “Shirak” (1881), “Sisuan” (dedicated to Cilicia, 1885), “Ayrarat” (1890) and “Sisakan” (dedicated to Syunik 1893) were penned by Alishan with the same concept which occupy an intermediate place between geography and history.
The publication of these volumes was dictated by the literary and social issues raised in that period. It was a turning point back to the past and the history, when increasing censorship forced Eastern and Western Armenian intellectuals to express their words, national aspirations and desires in an allegorical way.
Just as the artistry of the narrative is observed in Alishan’s scholarly studies, so in fiction, especially in the third volume entitled “Hayruni” of the five volumes of poetry called “Motifs” (1857-1858), (dedicated to the Homeland) (1858), scholar Alishan poses a number of historical questions, which refer to the historical destiny and historical perspective of the Armenian people. These statements of questions bear in themselves the strong emphasis of the spirit of the Italian Revolution of the 1840’s.