Born 1805; died 1848. Armenian writer, democratic enlightener, founder of the new Armenian literature and the new literary language, teacher, and ethnographer. Born in the village of Kanaker near Yerevan to a noble but impoverished family.
Abovian studied in Echmiadzin and then from 1824 to 1826 at the Nercesian Seminary in Tiflis. He graduated from the Derpt (now Tartu) University in 1836 and returned to his native land in order to devote himself to pedagogical work. Abovian met with hostility from the reactionary Armenian clergy and the tsarist bureaucracy because he protested against dogmatism and formalism in school teaching. In 1837 he became a supervisor in the Tiflis district school, and in 1843 he transferred to the same position in Yerevan. On Apr. 2 (14), 1848, Abovian left his home and disappeared.
Abovian’s works had a huge significance in national literature. He wrote novels, stories, essays, plays, scholarly and artistic compositions, verses, and fables. He was the first Armenian children’s writer. Abovian appeared when Armenian literature was imbued with a religious spirit and the clergy was trying to artificially revive the moribund ancient Armenian language, Grabar. Abovian’s works, directed against feudal and clerical ideology and imbued with democracy, are written in the contemporary language—Ashkharabar—which the people could understand.
In his famous work Wounds of Armenia (1841, published 1858), which laid the foundation for the secular folk novel, Abovian portrayed the Armenian people’s war of liberation during the Russo-Iranian War of 1826–28. He showed the terrible sufferings of the Armenians under the Iranian conquerors. The basic idea of the novel—the assertion of feelings of national dignity, patriotism, and hatred for the oppressors—greatly influenced broad strata of Armenian society. The hero of the novel, Agasi, embodies the freedom-loving spirit of the people and their desire to fight off the foreign conquerors. Agasi and his militant partisan friends have a motto: give your life but don’t give up your native land to the enemy. Abovian saw a guarantee of a national, political, and cultural revival for his native land in strengthening friendship between the Russian and Armenian peoples. In the novel, elements of romanticism and realism are woven together; the narrative is interrupted by lyrical and didactic digressions.
Abovian also wrote the following scholarly and artistic works: The Discovery of America, A Book of Stories, a collection of fables, Entertainment for Spare Time (published in 1864), and the cycle Baiati (published in 1864). He translated into Armenian the works of Homer, W. Goethe, F. Schiller, N. M. Karamzin, I. A. Krylov, and others.
Abovian was the founder of a new Armenian democratic pedagogy. He protested against the medieval clerical and scholastic system of education and instruction. He fought for secular comprehensive education—intellectual, moral, vocational, and physical—for accessibility of schools and free instruction for the poor, and for equal education for boys and girls. Among Abovian’s pedagogical works are a reader, Predtrop’e (1838), a grammar for the Russian and Armenian languages, and a novel, The Story of Tigran, or a Moral Precept for Armenian Children (first printed in 1941). Abovian was the first in Armenia to concern himself with scientific ethnography: he studied the life and the habits of the peasants of his native village Kanaker, and of the inhabitants of Yerevan, and he collected and studied Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Kurdish folklore.
WORKSAbovian, Kh. Erkeri liakatar zhoghovatsu, vols. 1–10. Yerevan, 1947–61.
In Russian translation:
Izbr. Moscow, 1948.
Rany Armenii. Yerevan-Moscow, 1948, and Yerevan, 1955.
REFERENCESAbov, G. Khachatur Abovian: Zhizn’ i tvorchestvo. Yerevan, 1948.
Santrosian, M. Khachatur Abovian—vydaiushchiisia armianskii pedagog. Moscow, 1957.
Terterian, A. Aboviani steghtsagortsut’yune. Yerevan, 1941.
Shahaziz, E. Khach’atur Aboviani kensagrut’yune. Yerevan, 1945.
Partizuni, V. Khach’atur Abovian. Yerevan, 1952.
Hakobian, P. Khach’atur Aboviani “Verk’ Hayastani” vepi steghtsagortsakan patmut’yune. Yerevan, 1955.
Khach’atur Abovian: Kyank’ê gortsê, zhamanakĕ (1809–1836) Yerevan, 1967.
Margarian, A. Khach’atur Abovianĕ ew ashkharĕ’habare. Yerevan, 1958.
Muradian, H. Khach’atur Abovian. Yerevan, 1963.
Bazian, S. Aboviani grakan zharhangut’yunê. Yerevan, 1966.