Avetik Isaakian

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Isaakian, Avetik Saakovich


Born Oct. 19 (31), 1875, in Kazarapat, near Aleksandropol’ (now Leninakan); died Oct. 17, 1957, in Yerevan. Soviet Armenian poet. Academician of the Academy of Sciences of the Armenian SSR (1943).

Isaakian studied at the Gevorkian Seminary in Echmiadzin from 1889 to 1892; his works were first published in 1892. Arrested in 1896 for antitsarist activity, he was exiled to Odessa. In 1897 he published his first collection of verses, Songs and Wounds. The lyricism, emotionality, and musicality of Isaa-kian’s poems won him instant popularity. His better works are permeated with sorrowful, poignant ruminations on the fortunes of men and the injustice of life. They are full of love for the homeland and its people (“Oh! sweet fatherland …,” “Enough winter, spring’s time has come …,” and “You will not understand”).

Before and during the Revolution of 1905–07, themes of the struggle against national and social oppression were particularly strong in his poems (“Bell of Freedom,” “Hell of Revenge and Holy Hate”). He was arrested again in 1908. Many of Isaakian’s pre-revolutionary poems reflect feelings of spiritual isolation and incurable grief, despair, and anger against a cruel world and its injustices.

During 1909–11, Isaakian wrote the long philosophical poem Abul-Ala-Mahari, which depicts the tragedy of a lone powerful individual, castigating “bloodthirsty power,” law, the courts, and morality. The poem was banned by the tsarist censors. Persecuted by the secret police, Isaakian emigrated in 1911. During this period he wrote Oriental legends and prose poems (“Lilith,” “Li-Tai-Po”), as well as lyric poetry expressing his longing for the motherland. Abroad, and later in Armenia, Isaakian worked on the novel Usta Karo, which he never completed. During World War I (1914–18) he wrote the historical ballad Our Ancestors (Geneva, 1917), on the immortality of the nation.

The Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917 heralded a new period in Isaakian’s work. In the narrative poem Sasma Mher (Geneva, 1919) he created the figure of the warrior Mher, protector of the destitute. In 1926, Isaakian came to Soviet Armenia, where he published a new collection of poems and stories, Pipe of Patience (1928). Isaakian lived abroad, a friend of the Soviet Union from 1930 to 1936, when he returned from Paris to his homeland, this time for good. In Soviet Armenia, he undertook cultural projects of great social import, composing new poetic cycles (Our Historians and Our Minstrels, 1939; To My Homeland, 1940; and Armenian Architecture, 1942) and rewriting Sasma Mher (1937).

During the Great Patriotic War (1941–45), Isaakian composed patriotic verses (“Call to Arms,” 1941; “My Heart Is on the Mountain Peaks,” 1941; “In Everlasting Memory of S. G. Zakiian,” 1942; and “The Day of the Great Victory,” 1945), for which he received the State Prize of the USSR in 1946. Isaakian was a member of the Soviet Committee for the Defense of Peace. He served as chairman of the Armenian Writers’ Union from 1946 to 1957.

Isaakian’s work, permeated with humanism and deep respect for human dignity, is closely linked to the history and culture of the Armenian people and to the best traditions of Russian and world literature. As early as 1916, A. Blok wrote: “Isaakian is a first-rate poet; perhaps in all Europe now there is no talent so fresh and direct” (Sobr. soch., vol. 8, 1963, pp. 455–56). Many of Isaakian’s verses have been set to music and have become folk songs; they have also been translated into numerous foreign languages. Isaakian was a deputy to the second through fourth convocations of the Supreme Soviet of the Armenian SSR. He was awarded two Orders of Lenin and various medals.


[Isahakyan, Av.] Erkeri zokovacu, vols. 1–4. Yerevan, 1950–51.
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Patmvackner ew legendner. Yerevan, 1962.
Arjak echer. Yerevan, 1963.
Lirika. Yerevan, 1969.
In Russian translation:
Izbr. stikhi. Moscow, 1945.
Izbr. proza. Yerevan, 1947.
Izbr. proizv., vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1958.
Stikhotvoreniia i poemy. Moscow, 1960.
Izbrannoe. Moscow, 1970.


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