Armenian Literature of Independence Period: A Review



To grasp the thematic nature, inclusions and formation peculiarities of literature in independence period literature periodization should be carried out, firstly. It should be done in order to understand what independence period and its characteristic literature mean.

“Literature periodization is the division of the history of literature development into time stages”,-mentions literary critic and theoretician J. Qalantaryan. Yet, for that classification certain principles should be separated on the basis of which division should be carried out. For modern literature in Armenia the following periodization is done:

  1. 1918-1920-Preparatory stage for the development of literature.
  2. 1920-30s-Literature took a new path, obtained new stimulations, thematic and ideological inclusions, and the hero was the modern man.
  3. 1941-56-In this stage the topic of novels was the war, works about nation and national are created.
  4. 1956-65-Years of Khrushchev thaw.
  5. 1965-85-Years of Brezhnev silent worship or stagnation.
  6. 1985-91-Intermediate period: in 1985 Gorbachev took leadership. This was somehow a stage of liberty during which new tendencies become noticeable not only in political but in literary life, as well.
  7. From 1991 to today-Conditionally, this has been called independence period.

Divisions of all stages have been carried out according to the following principles:

  • Ideology

Literature is connected to the ideology of the period. It affects thinking and worldview of a writer, and anyway, it finds its direct or indirect manifestation in literary creations.

  • Topic

From this point of view the choice of the topic is important, as well, because in parallel with periods of literature the topic of literary works also changes.

  • Hero

A basis for periodization becomes the choice of the hero, as well: that is who should the hero of literature in each period. Literary heroes of twenties of the 20th century were, for instance, revolutionaries, Bolsheviks with high boots, leather jackets, and heroes of 40-50s were participants in military events (D. Demirchian “Vardanank”, St. Zoryan “Hayots Berde (The Armenian Fortress), “King Pap”, etc.).

  • Style, language, viewpoint

The style, language and the worldview of the writer also become basis for periodization as due to these we can understand to what period the work belongs, in what conditions it was written and what it reflects.

That is, ideology, topic, hero, style, language and viewpoint are features that allow us to distinguish one period from another.

Independence literature as a mirror itself

In its sources each new phenomenon bears the roots and the influence of the old. Armenian independence literature is also privy to the deposits of the old. Yet, times and social-political conditions are different, and as literary critic S. Grigoryan mentions in “The Poetry of Armenia in Independence Period”,-“Still yesterday the “free” artist publishing his books on state plan and getting an honorarium transformed immediately, became a demonstrator, an unemployed, a warrior or a political figure. The decade of independence liberated the horizon of an Armenian poet granting him with the greatest freedom, keeping safe from an outer literary critic and gradually unchaining the inner world”.

If in the Soviet Union the ideology was based on the principles of the Communist Party, in independence period there were no compulsory ideological emphases as independence had brought with it freedom of thought and ideas. A positive sign should be considered the liberation of the press journalism where the artists could freely express their thoughts and the matters worrying them.

Independence literature breathed new life into the “old” topics and gave new wording. On one hand, a new horizon with its various and multiple pits and bumps opened for writers and artists, on the other hand an adaptation, as well as poets who would formulate the format following the war, were necessary to that new situation. Poets and prose-writers, composing before independence, encountering a new way either lay down their arms or make new run for a higher flight. Hovhannes Grigoryan, Artem Harutyunian, Armen Shekoyan, Armen Martirosyan, Henrik Edoyan, Levon Khechoyan and others became the bearers of new deposits in post-independence period.

The topics were various again: recent earthquake, grave social conditions of the country, political situation, post-martial crisis and particularly poets into the depths of despair.

In that stage nearly all authors had a tendency of returning to the mythical, particularly to the usage of biblical topics, the Flood and the mythical motives of Poqr Mher. From psychological point it is viewed as an escape from reality which was undesirable and unacceptable (Hovh. Grigoryan “Angels from Childhood Sky”, “Between Two Floods”, “Doors Open Days in Mher’s Cave”, Artem Harutyunian “A Letter to Noy”, “Huda’s Holiday”).

The most widespread topic was the literary portrayal of the time which has been brought into reality by several writers of senior and junior generations-Hovh. Grigoryan, L. Khechoyan, A. Ayvazian, G. Xanjyan and others. Armenian literature manifests itself during the Artsakh Movement, war, as well as during the verification of the ceasefire. Artsakh Liberation War has been reflected in literature. Still during the war some discernible peculiarities of creative development emerged in literature- fictional portrayal of Karabakh War, certain inclusion of the material, etc. After the ceasefire some works have been created describing years of struggle for existence, feats of warriors, doctors, pilots, students, women, the documentary, biographic, martial reality depicting separate episodes of self-defence and liberation fights (Hovik Vardumyan “The Assault Detachment Commander”, “The God’s Call”, “The Liberation of Shushi”, “Luminaire”, “The Dividing Line”, Ara Nazaretyan “Trophy Stories”, etc.).

Historical topics are also touched upon in parallel with the present and sometimes with the mythical (L. Khechoyan “King Arshak, Eunuch Drastamat”, “Black Book, Weighty Bug”, “The Book of Mher’s Door”, Z. Khalapyan “Vasil the Great, Armenian Byzantium Caesar or King of the Pitcher”, “Ara the Beautiful and Shamiram”, etc.). Yet, in parallel with all these topics eternal themes are not forgotten, as well-love, yearning (V. Grigoryan “True, I’m Telling the Truth”).

The hero of fiction novels and poetry becomes the man living in independence who is just as free in his senses and feelings. An individual starts to be viewed not only as merely a social being but also as a bearer and participant of worldwide phenomena.

Recurrently, new methods, courses, genders and genres are being applied which have refreshing nature for the Armenian literature of independence period. From this point of view, degradation of patterns was also of great importance. Free, prose verses, rhyme free poems come to replace classic poetry. And here originates the viewpoint that there is no poetry any longer, and David Hovhannes, when reviewing the volume of A. Harutyunyan, announces with regret about “ajapsandal seething in a satanic boiler” which is referred to as “Armenian poetic reality”.

In parallel with this, change of language can be noticed both in poetry and in prose. Writers construct their works through daily-conversational and sometimes, slang words and expressions. Some even go to extremes completely denying the literary and artistic language (V. Grigoryan, M. Petrosyan and others). Punctuation is expelled from the text and each starts to put punctuation marks as they want. This is explained by inner unlimitedness and ease of the talk of an individual.

So, now times bring forth new formats, modern literary generations begin to compose with new rules, the literary arena becomes full with diversity of topics, the most various phenomena become the subject of artistic works.Writers confront universal topics with personal ones. In parallel with it, not only the general paragon-character becomes the hero but also the author himself, as well as the public, social, political being who is at the center of events and privy of the period. The language and style of literary works become not obligatory, free of former patterns, and what refers to the viewpoint of the writer, it develops unique stimulations which manifest themselves through modern methods and literary tricks.

Author: Arlina Sargsyan. ©All rights are reserved.
Translator: Nazely Hambardzumyan