Aleksandr Shirvanzade

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Shirvanzade, Aleksandr Minasovich


(pen name of A. M. Movsisian). Born Apr. 7 (19), 1858, in Shemakha, Azerbaijan; died Aug. 7,1935, in Kislovodsk; buried in Yerevan. Soviet Armenian writer. People’s Writer of Armenia and Azerbaijan (1930).

The son of an artisan, Shirvanzade graduated from a Russian district school in 1873. He lived in Baku until 1883 and changed professions many times. In the early 1880’s, Shirvanzade wrote publicist articles about the exploitation of workers in Baku’s oil refineries. This was also the theme of his first works of fiction, the short stories “The Fire at the Refineries” and “A Shop Assistant’s Diary” (both 1883). In 1883, Shirvanzade moved to Tbilisi and devoted himself to writing fiction. From 1886 to 1891 he worked for the weekly newspaper Ekho (Ardzagank), in which he published short stories, sketches, and novellas.

Shirvanzade lived in Paris from 1905 to 1910 and in Tbilisi from 1910 until 1919, when he went abroad again. The writer welcomed the October Revolution of 1917 and was delighted with the achievements of Soviet Armenia. In 1926 he returned to his homeland and became one of the creators of Soviet Armenian literature. He spoke at the First Congress of Soviet Writers.

From the beginning of his writing career, Shirvanzade dealt with the lives of various strata of society—merchants, artisans, businessmen, the bourgeois intelligentsia, and performing artists. He depicted the world of the patriarchal provinces in the novel Honor (1885) and the novella The Evil Spirit (1894, separate edition 1897), pointing out the infiltration of bourgeois mores and narrating the dramatic fates of his heroes with psychological accuracy.

In the novel Chaos (1898), his most significant work, Shirvanzade described life in an industrial city and the chaos of the capitalist world. He based the plot on fundamental social problems, mainly the struggle of social classes and groups, the exploitation of workers, and the moral disintegration of the bourgeois family, for whom the craving for money snuffs out all emotions. The heroes of several of his works fall victim to profiteerism and man’s inhumanity to man, notably the gifted and idealistic musician in the novella The Artist (1903) and the innocent, ingenuous daughter of a “hero of easy profit” in the drama For the Sake of Honor (1905).

In his prose and plays, Shirvanzade introduced a number of innovations to Armenian literature. His works’ psychological depth, passion, and accurate satirical exposure of the purveyors of social vices have accounted for their popularity over the years. In Soviet Armenia, Shirvanzade published many articles, short stories, and sketches, as well as the political comedy Kum Morgana (1926), which caustically ridiculed those who vainly hoped of returning the old order to Russia. He was the author of a screenplay about oil refineries, The Last Fountain (1934), and the memoirs In the Crucible of Life. His works have been translated into many languages of the world.


Shirvanzade. Erkeri zhoghovatsu, vols. 1–4. Tbilisi, 1903–4.
Erkeri zhoghovatsu, vols. 1–8. Yerevan, 1929–34.
Erkeri zhoghovatsu, vols. 1–10. Yerevan, 1958–62.
Erkeri, vols. 1–2. Yerevan, 1972.
K’aos, Vep. Yerevan, 1976.
In Russian translation:
Izbr. soch., vols. 1–2. Tbilisi, 1936–38.
Izbr. Moscow, 1949.
Izbr. Moscow, 1952.
Izbr. soch., vols. 1–3. Moscow, 1957.
Khaos. Yerevan, 1975.


Tamrazian, G. S. Dramaturgiia Shirvanzade. Yerevan, 1956.
Tamrazian, G. S. Al. Shirvanzade: Kritiko-biliografich. ocherk. Yerevan, 1958.
Tamrazian, G. S. Shirvanzade. Moscow, 1967.
Terterian, A. Shirvanzadei grakan tiperi hanragitarane. Yerevan, 1959.
T’amrazian, H. Shirvanzadei dramaturgian. Yerevan, 1954.
Nuyni. Shirvanzade: Kyank’e i gorche. Yerevan, 1961.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.