Charents Behest of National Collectivity

During all periods of Armenian history the issue of country’s integrity and existence has been pending because of dissension of princes, lords as well as the people and that issue is actual till today. But in the 20th century Yeghishe Charents with his work formulated centuries-long and fundamental question of all times which reached new generations: what is the cause of our national misfortune?

The objective of this analysis is to reveal searches and conclusions of Charents, writer and thinker standing at the road of national fate.

The Armeinan “Dantesque”

In the infinite world of human feelings, in hard knots of searching the meaning of life, dreams, yearning and love Charents at the very beginning asserted his complete dedication to homeland. The tragedy of national pain and the hope of renaissance became the axis of his feelings, the basis of his self-expression and self-consciousness. Coming to Van with voluntary troops with the hope of homeland’s salvation the poet saw the state of real homeland and under the immediate impact of what he saw and felt in 1915-1916, wrote the poem “Dantesque Legend”. In the poem the poet reproduced national misfortune. In the poem he did not discuss the causes of that great tragedy, but put the cornerstone for making the judgment that he was to write in 1933. We see the image of destroyed homeland, ruins of Armenia that bore the last destruction. In the work of Charents the seeds of national collectivity issue were drilled which aftermath would be turned to poems “Vahagn”(1916) and “National Dream”(1917).

Our research is concentrated not only around one work but we have tried to figure out the origins of Charents behest (“Oh! Armenian people, your only salvation is in your collective power”): where did it take its origins from? What way did it pass? And where did it reach?

Thus, “Vahagn” ideologically completes “Dantesque Legend”. In this short-sized work, which has highly-valuable content, the picture of national life is outlined. The author rose with indignation against all vain promises and derelictions which had previously been given by various figures (members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation) related to restoration of national ideology and unification of homeland.(Here it is necessary to remember the hopes of people related to the First Republic and its leadership).

“… And we believed, drunk and tipsy

That you exist powerful, embodiment of Power

And they came with blood, fire

Turned our ancient country to dust”.

And that ruined homeland lived inside Charents and its present painful state and uncertainty of future made him embitter his words more and more and reprimand those who were the cause of nation’s and homeland’s breakdown.

“… And when they pulled your bloodless corpse

To throw as feed to hungry packs

The bases of our life fell into abyss

And still crack in bloody mist…”

The National Dream

Revolution revealed new hopes which Charents expressed in the poem “National Dream” written in 1917. The work begins with a dream and ends with an awakening. Developments take place in a dream. In the light of Great Massacre, the adventurous line of action of Armenian national figures , false patriotic bragging of Armenian “national figures” of that time and those damages that they caused to perishing people, are presented. Dantesque legend turns into mythical Vahagn and revitalizes as national dream which Charents tried to bring to real platform with his heroes from “myth, sorrow of brain and illness of heart” putting fundaments in reality. With the novel “Country of Nairi” he outlined the breakdown of nation’s and country’s collectivity because of inner riots, dissensions as well as improvidence. The fall of Kars was not only the fall of Kars, but also defeat and fall of all Armenian people. Stimulations of homeland’s salvation, hopes of coming and future accompanied Charents during the whole path of his creative work.

In the autumn of 1920 Turkey attacked Armenia. In September-October Olti, Srighamish, Igdir and poet’s home city, Kars fell. In the beginning of November the enemy entered Gyumri. It seemed as if the last day of Armenia’s existence came.

And this hardest political situation is presented in the “Vision of Death” which is a compression of tragedy of lost homeland and all ruined hopes. Tensions and alarms of the country were passed to the young writer. Charents, ready for self-sacrifice, not only urged to be united but also wished to be the last victim and martyr in that chaos and bloodshed. Here is the best expression of author’s anxiety towards the future of the homeland and as the last singer of Country of Nairi he was ready to become the last victim and the first cornerstone of new life.

” Let there be no need for any victim except me,

Let another feet not approach the gallow,

Let them see in my eyes of hanged

Let them see our future bright days,

Let there be no need for any victim except me,

Let no any shadow approaches the gallow…”

At the Crossroads of History

His last book, “Book of the Way” became the ultimate foothold of writer’s inner thoughts, clashes, disappointments and expectations. Literary scholar Hr. Tamrazyan noticed justifiably:” “Book of the Way” is a book of suffered life, red-hot mind and blood”.

Descending from Khorenatsi, Abovyan, Siamanto, Komitas and Tumanyan, Charents spoke with the future man on tragedy of national fate.

“An inner connection is created between the chapter “About Senseless Morals and Manners of Our First Lords”, famous “Mourning” and the poem “At the Crossroads of History”. The spirit of Siamanto resuscitates in the “Vision of Death”. Dramatic image of Abovyan (Heading to mount Masis) rises, the parallel of historical Vardan and the newest revolutionary hero is underscored, legend and reality are opposed, Charents quite unexpectedly also approaches the origins of epos and heroism of the Armenian people,” marked Hr. Tamrazyan.

In any case, acute writer with the sensation of imminent disaster tried to examine inner advices and experience of history strengthening the philosophy of people’s historical fate. With this, with lyrical-analytical refined transitions Charents made up the song of Armenian fate. His lyrical poetry is full of indirect questions: why have we been weak? where do the origins of our falls go ?, why haven’t we passed the ways of our century-long history with power, strength and resolute steps? Phsycological bases of these questions are understandable. Quite recently slaughter, massacre were commited, the life of Armenians stood at the border of life and death, there were ruins, dead bodies and half-dead people everywhere and the present was not hope-giving. Physical and moral losses of Armenians at that hard way were one of the main concerns of Charents.

In the collection “At the Crossroads of History” rejecting the work of “brilliant”, but “fierce psalm-readers” of middle ages he uncovered with one sentence the main cause of his pain. In their dark closets those psalm-readers tempered “slavish people”. Charents expressed the same idea in the poem “At the Crossroads of History”. The poem begins as follows:

” At the crossroads of history we have long walked

Guideless, scattered, lacking ideas,

From ancient past till the brilliant present,

Where the vague future is in flame toward us.”

One-by-one Charents passed through the crossroads of history, examined each path and lane, showed, that we had glorious past, but eventually appeared on the outskirts of life and turned our soil and country into tillage.

He saw the basis of nation’s poorness and slavishness in bad upbringing and moral philosophy given by priesthood, they only took care of welfare and existence and did not have iron or just other weapon in their closets to add the power of that weapons to their bursting songs in fatal moment and not to lead the people to orphanhood.

“Little, miserable, poor,

Holding in their dark walls a handful of gold,

And no any, no any nail,

Not a piece of iron or pewter whitewash,

Or column of marble, or just lime,

That would get smoked from rains in the moment of ordeal

And its smoke would be added to the song of indignation”.

From here it is clear that Charents stressed the importance of national dignity and called for consciousness of strength, power and self-appraisal.

Of course, the writer did not refute from time to time regained victories, but also demonstrated that they were thanks to national unity. For centuries, we begged freedom and justice from foreign countries, but as a result, lost what we had had. After this came the times of Israel Ori, but that poor Armenian-born was not able to do anything, if the people, the nation was enslaved and not unanimous. Although the same nation was not guilty, because mutations had already occurred in its genetics and it was drawn far from its origins, from that pagan power which was inside it by antiquated succession. As a result, one day that vein was erased, the nation was closed in dark closets and enforced to pray, not take a sword, but ask for salvation, not capture its own place under the sun, but beg to save them lives even being enslaved. And the Armenian torn wolf reached the 20th century and would go so, if the last knights did not stand up.

” And we stand here towards the future

Surprisingly lightly, surprisingly faceless,

Bare like nudity and without past…

That we are, perhaps, that stubborn camel

Which contrary to the fable of Jesus

Should enter through the narrow eye of niddle

The pure heaven of future…

That we are, perhaps, that rich,

Which enriched by its nudity of the past

Should inherit the loss of our centuries,

That is determined for all bares from above…”

A nation which is painfully without face and past, which lived on vain glories, now stands towards its century and in its place its descendants feel ashamed and try to hide that national nudity.

“Oh! Armenian People, Your Only Salvation is in Your Collective Power”

The writer, which was connected with his nation’s pain, could not ignore that pain, but in hard political conditions had to alter and codify his tale. One of the bright proves of it is the poem “Behest”. From bitterness and infinite love towards his nation “At the Crossroads of History” and especially “Behest” were born.

The work, written in 1933, represents the conclusion of national literary-creative life of Charents. During the last years of his life Charents was periodically called for questionings and to give evidence. The Soviet authority established special control over him because to them, Charents with his several friends(A. Bakunc, G. Mahari, S. Ter-Gabrielyan and others) was a member of counterrevolutionary, nationalistic corporation and wished to secede Armenia from the Soviet Union. As a result, Charents was announced “nation’s enemy”. The poem “Behest” became the last drop to sentence the writer to inevitable death. In 1936 during one of usual questionings interrogator touched upon the expression hidden in the poem “Behest”:”Oh! Armenian people, your only salvation is in your collective power”.

“That poem was written in 1933 when, as it is known, the situation in mountainous regions of Armenia was disastrous, that served as objective prerequisite for my somewhat pessimistic mood, which is expressed on several pages of my book, especially in that slogan.

Question: Who do you want to save the Armenian people from?

Response: From those leaders, who are guilty of the above mentioned situation of Armenia”.

The foothold of this ideology is country of Nairi with its entirety and inseparability. The writer wandered through the traces of the homeland’s dream and finally understood that the salvation would come only in case of reunification of mob, when big and small Armenias, The Soviet Armenia and Diaspora would be unified and struggle in favor of one goal, in favor of restoration of liberty, which had been lost centuries ago. But one should not understand writer’s goal only in the political context: cultural retreat, which would lead to destruction, was great. Nation is steadfast and unanimous also by common language, faith, culture, but during that period country suffered from inner alienation.

But Yeghishe Charents wrote poetical novels “Homo Sapiens” and “Curly-haired Boy” to reinstate that he still had faith in the future. Despite nation’s torn, dirty and hopeless situation curly-hair boy of future will come and will be the imagined homeland of dreams. And we again come to the behest of national collectivity, brilliant poem “Behest”, which is the key masterpiece of Charents work.

Thus, examining the way of Charents creative-work and his works related to themes of homeland, nation we can conclude that throughout his life the author sought to the country’s spiritual and physical liberation. He examined in details all moral and material losses that we had for centuries, their cause effect and also showed them. He put in front of a reader cornerstones of national ideology and demonstrated the circumstances which backed and destroyed those columns .Yeghishe Charents devoted his life to the examination of his homeland’s history, observed his days, the present and the issues of that reality, then tried to see the future hoping that there would be curly-haired boys with white and clean shirts. However, brilliant writer formulated time-honoured and firmed idea according to which the nation’s salvation is in its unity and collectivity, so “Oh! Armenian people, your only salvation is in your collective power”.


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Author: Arlina Sargsyan. © All rights are reserved.

Translator: Sona Aramyan.